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Title: I Sing the Body Digital

Author(s): Sandra Beasley

Publication information: American Scholar 76 (2007), 15. Reproduced with permission.

Whitman Archive ID: anc.00140


"Do I contradict myself?" Walt Whitman famously asked in Song of Myself. "Very well, then....I contradict myself; / I am large....I contain multitudes." Since 1995, scholars at the Walt Whitman Archive have sought to digitize those multitudes, creating a complete and searchable collection of Whitman's published works. The archive already includes six American editions of Leaves of Grass, as well as the "deathbed" printing, along with manuscript drafts, journal reviews, and photographs of the poet.

Project co-director Kenneth Price, a professor of American literature at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, reports that there are plans to expand the archive and acquire early translations of Whitman's work in Spanish, Russian, and Ukrainian; critical examinations; and biographies, such as Horace Traubel's nine-volume account of Whitman's final years, With Walt Whitman in Camden. Price's team is also transcribing the poet's Civil War correspondence, including exchanges with his brothers George Washington Whitman and Thomas Jefferson Whitman. These letters provide context for poems drafted at the time, many of which were inspired by wounded soldiers Whitman nursed.

Recently the archive became the first literary project to receive a "We the People" challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. If matching requirements for fundraising can be met by 2009, the $500,000 grant will help establish an endowment to maintain the archive.


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Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.