Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Schyberg, Frederik (1905–1950)
Author:
Miller, David G.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Frederik Schyberg edited a selection of Walt Whitman's poetry in Copenhagen in 1933. In the same year he wrote a companion biography to the collection entitled simply Walt Whitman. While it built on Jean Catel's Walt Whitman: La naissance du poète, published in Paris in 1929, Schyberg's biography is notable because it not only places Whitman in a world context, but more importantly because it blends biography and textual issues. Schyberg traces the changes and alterations between the various editions of Leaves of Grass, suggesting Whitman's psychological development at each stage of the composing process. Schyberg sees biography affecting text just as text reveals biography. It was Schyberg, for example, who first suggested in a formal biography that the doomed love affair which apparently gave rise to "Live Oak with Moss" was homosexual in nature when other biographers pointed to the actress Ellen Grey as the love interest.

Schyberg also emphasizes, for the first time in Whitman biography, that Whitman was not out of touch with his age, but rather was caught up in the social and moral currents of his time, reacting to people and events around him on an intimate level. Whitman operates, then, for Schyberg as a prophetic mystic not only seeing his own surroundings clearly, but able to see them in a larger spiritual context as well. This provides the basis for Whitman's worldwide appeal, according to Schyberg.

Walt Whitman was translated into English by Evie Allison Allen and first published in the United States of America in 1951.

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie. The Growth of "Leaves of Grass": The Organic Tradition in Whitman Studies. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993.


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