How did the themes in Walt Whitmans poetry reflect him as the author and the time in which he lived?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whitman's writings are an expression of both his ideas and his time because they exalt the individual spirit.  Whitman was an embodiment of the Transcendental movement in America.  This particular literary and social movement emphasized the role of feelings and emotions in the human experience.  In a larger sense, Transcendentalism argued that the subjective narrative has to be praised over all else.  The practices of conformity that invalidate this experience must be set aside in exchange for individuals to sing a song of themselves.  When Whitman composes "Song of Myself" and other works such as "I Sing the Body Electric," there is a definite emphasis of self.  Whitman was one of the first American authors to see the expression of the individual as having universal qualities.  From the subjective, the objective is revealed.  When Whitman writes of his experience with the "learn'd astronomer," it is telling that the individual spirit is what defines consciousness and what would also define America.  Along with the Transcendental movement, Whitman embodies the spirit of hope and progress that typifies American expansion and faith in democracy.  No longer was the nation one that saw itself as carriers of original sin and condemned to live life as a provincial village.  Rather, Whitman embodied the spirit of the Age of Reform, a progressive belief that the expansion of democratic vistas and horizons is what defines American identity and is a part of the nation's consciousness.  In this light, Whitman is both writing of his time and is a product of it.