chapter  8
Walt Whitman
Pages 6

Whitman's radicalism had much in common with his age and his American roots. Radicals in America seem generally to have preferred the individual and the anarchistic to the collective and the socialist. Whitman might reject the idea of private property, but he cared too much about his self to be able to adapt to any political program. Whitman's radical origins included the Utopian movements that flourished in the American 1840s. He was a great admirer of Frances Wright, the British reformer who had founded the Nashoba Community and collaborated with Robert Dale Owen on New Harmony. Wright's talks on education,

economy as well as the possibilities of self-creation. He was also a remarkable autodidact, absorbing his reading and incorporating it into an eclectic, undisciplined body of heterogeneous knowledge. His poetry reflects his enormous storehouse of obscure information, as well as his disdain for "official" knowledges: as he would write in his greatest poem, "Song of Myself," "I have no chair, no church, no philosophy."