Identity is depths beyond what human beings perceive when they look into a mirror-- rather, it is the rich history of time, people, environment, and matters of the heart that afflict and influence them from their earliest memories to their present moment. This collection of poetry, composed of three sections representative of significant periods of one's personhood, is meant to explore the nuances and complications of one's being both a product of their experiences and carrier of memories from those experiences. The first section is composed of poetry concerned with identity formation in the early memories of childhood, with familial influence rooted at its core. The second section is focused on the movement from innocence of childhood to the infatuations, love, and heartbreak that come with young adulthood. The third section is comprised of poetry that looks introspectively at the former two in order to inform an identity that does not abandon those experiences, but builds independently from them. This collection strives to clarify the immense influence memories and human connection have on the development of one's sense of self. It is in hope that this exploration of identity and one's relationship to its ever-transforming essence will provide better understanding of the significance in claiming one's own identity while, at the same time, valuing even the experiences which may haunt them.
In 1860, Walt Whitman released what he called the “new American Bible.” This claim scandalized American readers of the day though, since then, much more than the small circle of intellectuals has recognized its importance. The 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass was also the first edition (of seven) in which he claimed to inaugurate a new religion. The centerpiece of this new religion was the mystical experience in which poet and reader embarked together. Through printed text, poet and reader, individual and cosmos, citizen and the democratic would unify. Or, at least, the poet would lead the reader through a mystical journey that may or may not have a destination. The character of this journey changes, like Leaves of Grass itself, from edition to edition. This thesis traces the unstable and multifaceted character of this mysticism with a special emphasis on its blossoming as a mysticism of death.
In doing so, it will hopefully complicate an often overlooked facet of Leaves of Grass and vindicate Whitman’s status as a mystic which has been a subject of both debate and embarrassment for Whitman scholars. Many have shied away from applying the “mystic” label. A brief outline of the appearances of mysticism of Leaves of Grass followed by a tracing of its roots constitutes the introduction. Then, a chapter on Whitman’s more egotistical mysticism focuses on the dynamics within the self. Following this is a chapter on Whitman’s expansive mystical role and the final chapter identifies death as the ultimate mystical transfer and explains the reasoning behind this bold claim.