What are some comparisons and differences of Whitman's "Song of Myself" and Rousseau's Confessions.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one of the strongest points of comparison between both works is how the authors have little problem in using the subjective in their description of reality.  Rousseau is unabashed in the use of the personal understanding of truth.  He is one that uses his own life as the basis for his "confessions."  In doing so, he seeks to broaden his own experience to everyone.  Whitman "sings" in the personal, as well.  He simply does not limit himself to this realm, as he wishes to explore his own identity with the reader and with the notion of "America."  It is probably here where I think we see some differences.  Whitman is insistent on the transformation of his "I" to be one of social embrace and a universality in expression.  This is critical in his work.  He wishes to make sure that individuals understand that his own conception of self is one that can be embraced and merged into this vision of "America."  I think that this is where Rousseau simply does not voyage.  He is not seeking to construct an articulate and universal view of national identity based on his own subjective experience.  He simply wishes to divulge the personal into the realm of the external, whereas Whitman sees a larger vision evident in his disclosure.