Monday, April 9, 2012
Whitman in Mass Culture and Modern Media:
Before I had closely read the work of Whitman I was always aware of him as a poet and a figure that has continued to influence people over the course of a century. When we first discussed Whitman appearing in modern contexts what initially came to mind was the Ginsberg poem "A Supermarket in California."
This semester I am also taking a Bob Dylan class where we analyze Dylan's body of work from the start of his career in the 1960's. In addition to studying Dylan we also delve into the work of the Beat poets, Ginsberg being a prime example. In his poem "A Supermarket in California" he directly addresses Whitman throughout the poem and I thought it was an interesting synchronicity to come up between my courses.
"What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon...I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys."
I feel like I hear references made in shows and movies all the time to Whitman himself or his poetry but one that i remembered was from an episode of "Friends" when Joey is dating a woman named Charlie who is out of his league in terms of intelligence and education. She is suggesting activities for them to do on their date and she mentions a museum exhibit showcasing the letters of Whitman.
These were the most recent references I could think of but when searching online for other instances of Whitman included in mass culture i found that he had been mentioned on many other shows and movies I've seen such as "Six Feet Under" and "The Twilight Zone." It seems that Whitman's reputation as a writer lent for the credibility of institutions that used his name of image such as the Walt Whitman Hotel in New Jersey. I think that we will continue to see Whitman appear in mass culture, and now that I've taken this class the reference won't go over my head!