Walt Whitman

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What is Walt Whitman's greatest contribution to American literature? What is Walt Whitman's greatest contribution to American literature?

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Kristopher Parisian eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a difficult question. Whitman's short, rhyming poem "O Captain! My Captain" is probably his most widely read piece in high school classrooms, but Song of Myself is almost certainly his most widely read collection in the college classroom.

"When Lilacs in My Dooryard Last Bloomed" may be Whitman's greatest achievement in a single long poem, however, as it encapsulates many of his passions, themes, and poetic abilities around a loosely focused topic - the hero's death.

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charcunning eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Whitman ushered in a whole new era of poetry!

Out with rhyme scheme, out with meter, out with structured stanzas!

The poets before him were heavily influenced by British poetry, but good ol' Walt changed all that! Emily Dickinson appeared at around the same time and she, too, changed the face of poetry.

Also, Leaves of Grass has sexual content to it (and some will say homosexual content--I have not researched enough to know if he was gay or not, but have heard he was), which was not present in as much detail prior to this.

 

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You'll probably get a lot of different answers to this question, but I'll start. Emerson called for a "new" American literature, a literature worthy of the scope, size, and newness of the American country. Whitman responded to this request. He threw aside the conventions of earlier poetry and gave us a poetry worth of our democracy, a poetry that attempted to encompass the immense variety of people/nationalities/races that contributed to the American of Whitman's time. Whitman also brought an almost mystical...

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