LIT FINAL RESUBMISSION.docx - Starla Moore LIT-200 7-3...

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Starla Moore LIT-200 10/23/2019 7-3 Final Resubmission Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself (1892, American) Analyzing the passage from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself (1892, American) was a daunting task due to the ambiguity and seemingly unconnected content of the three paragraphs. For this reason the poem is best examined using Reader-Response Theory. After reading the passage many times to through each of the various lenses it can be seen that the poem holds more meaning when an individual focus on how it affects oneself. This theory, when applied to the poem has the benefit of denying a fixed meaning to the poem and giving the reader the power to create the meaning of the poem as they read it, highlighting the importance of the reader. This is an excellent advantage of this particular perspective; each reader is able to take liberties in the interpretation of this work based on the way it makes them feel. “ The meaning of a text, according to Reader-Response theorists, exists somewhere between the words on the page and the reader's mind” (Shmoop). Due to the nature of this poem, Reader-Response Theory was the most applicable lens to piece together a intertwining story that gave meaning to the whole, rather than three disconnected paragraphs that could each be viewed separately and through different critical approaches. In the fashion of the Reader-Response theorists who adapted this critical approach in the 1960’s, I addressed this work as if it were a code for me to decipher using Poststructuralist and New Historicism ideals, alongside my personal experience with literature and Literature Theory to analyze this piece under the Reader-Response viewpoint. In Whitman’s Song of Myself (1892), each paragraph seems to tell a separate, individual story which supports a different theory. For example, in the first stanza, he speaks of the marriage of a trapper and a red girl (Native American), describing her father as wearing moccasins and the trapper wearing mostly skins. However, he used more frivolous language while describing the bride. “ She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to her feet” (Whitman). This stands out to as a quality applicable to Feminist Theory, or possibly even Gender Studies because of Whitman being a straight white male writing about a presumably young Native American girls voluptuous limbs. However, with so many aspects of this paragraph being open to interpretation, it more appropriate to analyze the way it makes the reader feel and the impression they get from this piece, rather than the gender-focused theories one could consider. Also, considering that nothing other than the trapper’s clothing is described, one does not know if he is a wealthy man, a white or Native American man, or if the marriage was arranged. The Marxism Lens could be used to expand upon these questions, but without sufficient socioeconomic or political material to support this, Marxist and Postcolonial theories are inadequate for this paragraph.

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