Review of Jason Stacy’s Walt Whitman’s Multitudes: Labor Reform and Persona in Whitman’s Journalism and the First Leaves of Grass, 1840-1855 (New York: Peter Lang, 2008). ISBN-13: 978-1-4331-0153-3 (hardcover). 168 pages.
Review by Tim Lacy
Visiting Assistant University Historian, University of Illinois at Chicago
Whitman the Educator-Intellectual
Between the covers of Walt Whitman’s Multitudes, Jason Stacy analyzes three stages of thinking and writing in Whitman’s career. His shorthand for those stages—as they chronologically occurred in Whitman’s life—are the “Schoolmaster,” the “Editor,” and the “Bard.” These distinct yet linked personas provide an arc of consistency to Whitman’s thought; they make Stacy’s story an abbreviated intellectual biography of Whitman. The real topic of Stacy’s book, however, is education. This includes Whitman’s own formation, as well as his formal and informal roles as an educator through the aforementioned personas. By integrating these topics, Walt Whitman’s Multitudes successfully conveys the diversity and unity in his approach to teaching the multitudes about America. Whitman becomes a lens for examining the social virtues and vices of the Antebellum Era.
Thinking about the goals, content, and methods of education comes naturally to Stacy. He is an Assistant Professor of U.S. History and Social Science Pedagogy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Prior to SIUE, he taught in Illinois public schools for ten years. I am happy to add that I have known Jason for many years. We were graduate school colleagues at Loyola University Chicago.
This study is not by any means a full biography of Whitman. We see only one half of Whitman’s life and work in Multitudes. The book’s subtitle indicates that the 1840-1855 period is covered, but the first few chapters also touch on the 1820s and 30s. …
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