“This book, with its varied, energetic pieces, many of them crisp 'talks,' turns over and illuminates more of the vast field that is Whitman's mystery and achievement than any other collection. It does not simplify the biographical-sexual-political-aesthetic-spiritual complex that forms his legacy, his challenge, and his greatness.”—Calvin Bedient
“Taken together, [these] essays summarize the rich traditions of Whitman scholarship to date and suggest new fertile areas of research for the future. This important collection should be a part of every college library.”—Choice
In 1992, the year of the hundredth anniversary of Walt Whitman's death, a major gathering of international scholars took place at the University of Iowa. Over 150 participants heard papers by 20 of the world's most eminent critics of Whitman. Three generations of scholars offered new essays that brilliantly tracked the course of past and present Whitman scholarship. So significant was this historic celebration of the great American poet that the opening session was covered by CBS “Sunday Morning,” National Public Radio's “Morning Edition,” the New York Times, and other newspapers across the country. Musical and theatrical performances, art exhibitions, slide shows, readings, songs, and even a recently discovered recording of Whitman's voice were presented during the three days of the conference.
But the heart of the conference was this series of original essays by some of the most innovative scholars working in the field of American literature. There has ever been a more important collection of Whitman criticism. In these essays, readers will find the most suggestive recent approaches to Whitman alongside the most reliable traditional approaches. Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays captures Whitman's energy and vitality, which have only increased in the century after his death.