What is characteristically American about the speaker of the poem "I Celebrate Myself, and Sing Myself" by Walt Whitman?

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Generally, Whitman is identified as projecting a specifically American persona, here and throughout his oeuvre, because of his "individualism." Though this is a valid perception, it's also something of a truism, because it's been repeated enough that the reader now wishes to find some different quality about Whitman that has not been cited or popularized to such an extent, or one that describes the essence of his aesthetic more directly.

Whitman's emphasis on the physical, especially in an era usually seen as exemplifying reticence and prudery, is one thing that sets him off from most of his contemporaries. Is this an especially American characteristic? Yes, in the sense that people who live on a frontier are closer to the soil than others. They haven't yet had the chance to become entrenched in the "finer things" of civilization. Even today many Europeans tend to view Americans as relative rustics, unpolished and unknowing. Whitman gives an impression of uninhibited physicality and even...

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