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Fit Compositions: Whitman's Revisions to Drum-Taps

Herrington, Eldrid (2004) Fit Compositions: Whitman's Revisions to Drum-Taps. In: The American Poetry Book. Textxet Studies in Comparative Literature 44, pp. 29-43. ISBN 9042017120

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Herrington, Eldrid

‘Fit Compositions’ was a commissioned book chapter for a volume on the re-ordering of American poetry sequences. It was the outcome of my conversations with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, specifically Susan Howe and Charles Bernstein; other contributors include the critic Charles Altieri. It addresses the peculiarly American habit of obsessive revision and specifically the large-scale revision to poetic sequences.

I approached the questions raised by the volume through an investigation of the typography of the book and of nineteenth-century publishing techniques. All critics know that Whitman was a typesetter, both as a journalist and as an author, but there has been little attention to the effect that this might have on the placement and arrangement of his poems. ‘Fit Compositions’ begins with Frank O’Hara’s ‘translation’ of a Whitman Civil War poem and examines Whitman’s Drum-Taps over its thirty-year revision history; my chapter belongs to the study of book history, books as physical creations, to the study of Civil War poetry, and to the original topic that Rebound addresses: the re-ordering of poems in a sequence. I argue that Whitman places printing and narrative arrangements in tension with one another in order to ask questions about the events around him: in the first (1865) edition of Drum-Taps he opts for the accidents that print affords and presents a dispassionate personal and political vista of the war, where the ‘geography’ of the page presents discrete and isolated scenes. In subsequent editions, additions and arrangements place these in certain narratives.

Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Textxet Studies in Comparative Literature 44
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 2004
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2009 13:50
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2014 17:01
Item ID: 1257
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1257

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