Selected Criticism

Kummings, Donald D.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Although bibliographical resources on Walt Whitman have been sizable since early in this century, only in recent years have they exhibited anything approaching cohesion, comprehensiveness, and accessibility. Such resources tend to fall into two general categories: primary or descriptive bibliographies, those compilations that identify and describe, often in technical detail, the writings by Whitman—books, pamphlets, collected editions, separately published poems, articles and essays, stories, letters, notebooks, unpublished manuscripts, etc.; and secondary bibliographies, those compilations that enumerate, annotate, or evaluate the scholarly and critical writings about Whitman and his work.

In the first category the indispensable resource is Joel Myerson's Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography (1993). This volume surpasses in both scope and detail all previous attempts to describe what Whitman wrote. Nearly 1,100 pages long, its various sections document (1) all books and pamphlets wholly by Whitman, not only the editions and reprintings that appeared in English and other languages during his lifetime but also those published in English through 1991; (2) all collected editions of Whitman's writings through 1991; (3) all miscellaneous collections through 1991; (4) all titles in which Whitman poems, prose works, or letters appear for the first time in a book or pamphlet; (5) all first-appearance contributions by Whitman to American and English magazines and newspapers through 1991; (6) all proof copies, circulars, and broadsides of poetry and prose through 1892; (7) poetry and prose reprinted in books and pamphlets through 1892; (8) separate publications of individual poems and prose works through 1991; and, finally, (9) publications containing material possibly by Whitman. Because this bibliography is clearly organized and meticulously indexed, its user has easy access to a wealth of information.

Much less spacious and detailed than the Myerson book but valuable nevertheless is the long chapter on Whitman in volume 9 of Jacob Blanck's Bibliography of American Literature (1991), which was edited and completed by Michael Winship. For more than seventy years, people in Whitman studies who needed bibliographic particulars on primary sources had to rely, for the most part, on A Concise Bibliography of the Works of Walt Whitman (1922) by Carolyn Wells and Alfred F. Goldsmith or on The Bibliography of Walt Whitman (1920) by Frank Shay. The work of Winship and Myerson, the latter in particular, now radically diminishes the importance of these earlier volumes.

Two other resources provide illuminating information on primary materials: The Walt Whitman Archive (1993), edited by Joel Myerson, and Whitman at Auction, 1899–1972 (1978), compiled by Gloria A. Francis and Artem Lozynsky. A multivolume work of more than 2,000 pages, the Archive photographically reproduces many of the most important Whitman manuscripts now located in the collections at the Library of Congress, Duke University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Texas. Whitman at Auction reproduces in facsimile over forty catalogues that were printed for various auction sales involving Whitman material. Cited at the end of this essay are still other items, such as exhibition catalogues, that describe writings by Whitman.

The essential books in the category of secondary bibliographies are Walt Whitman, 1838–1939: A Reference Guide (1981) by Scott Giantvalley and Walt Whitman, 1940–1975: A Reference Guide (1982) by Donald D. Kummings. These two comprehensive volumes provide fully annotated year-by-year lists of nearly 8,200 items—book-length studies, monographs, dissertations, articles, chapters or passages in books, notes, reviews, and significant incidental references. Access to entries is facilitated by author, title, and subject indexes. For a supplement to Giantvalley's book, one should see his "Walt Whitman, 1838–1939: A Reference Guide: Additional Annotations" (1986). For bibliographies of secondary writings published after 1975, one should consult the MLA International Bibliography (annually issued in print form or on CD-ROM) and the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review (formerly the Walt Whitman Review). With each issue concluding with "A Current Bibliography," the WWQR contains the most complete listings.

Anyone interested in critical or evaluative bibliographies should peruse initially the annual surveys in American Literary Scholarship (1963– ). While not inclusive, these overviews nevertheless try to assess the best of a given year's publications. Other resources illuminating in their judgments of Whitman scholarship include Roger Asselineau's chapter on the poet in Eight American Authors (1971); Ed Folsom's "The Whitman Project: A Review Essay" (1982); Jerome Loving's chapter in The Transcendentalists (1984); William White's "Whitman in the Eighties: A Bibliographical Essay" (1985); Donald D. Kummings's discussion of "Materials" in Approaches to Teaching Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" (1990); and David S. Reynolds's "Bibliographic Essay on Walt Whitman" (1992). Not to be overlooked are Gay Wilson Allen's The New Walt Whitman Handbook (1986) and M. Jimmie Killingsworth's The Growth of "Leaves of Grass" (1993), both of which contain excellent critiques of many of the major biographical and critical books on Whitman.

Listed below are other informative items, including three bibliographies of bibliographies.



Anon. Walt Whitman: Catalogue of an Exhibition held at the American Library, London, March–April, 1954. London: United States Information Service, 1954.

Blanck, Jacob. "Walt Whitman: 1819–1892." Bibliography of American Literature, Volume Nine: Edward Noyes Westcott to Elinor Wylie. Ed. Jacob Blanck and Michael Winship. New Haven: Yale UP, 1991. 28–103.

Brewer, Frances J., comp. Walt Whitman: A Selection of the Manuscripts, Books and Association Items Gathered by Charles E. Feinberg: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held at the Detroit Public Library. Detroit: Detroit Public Library, 1955.

[Dubester, Henry J., et al., comps.]. Walt Whitman: A Catalog Based Upon the Collections of the Library of Congress. With Notes on Whitman Collections and Collectors, by Charles E. Feinberg. Washington: Library of Congress, 1955.

Francis, Gloria A., and Artem Lozynsky, comps. Whitman at Auction, 1899–1972. Detroit: Bruccoli Clark/Gale, 1978.

Frey, Ellen Frances. Catalogue of the Whitman Collection in the Duke University Library. 1945. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1965.

Hamer, Harold. A Catalogue of Works by and Relating to Walt Whitman. Bolton, England: Libraries Committee, 1955.

Holloway, Emory, and Henry S. Saunders. "Whitman." The Cambridge History of American Literature. Ed. William Peterfield Trent et al. Vol. 3. New York: Putnam, 1918. 551–581.

[Kebabian, Paul, et al.]. Walt Whitman: The Oscar Lion Collection. New York: New York Public Library, 1953.

Kennedy, William Sloane. "A Bibliography of Walt Whitman's Writings." The Fight of a Book for the World: A Companion Volume to "Leaves of Grass." By Kennedy. West Yarmouth, Mass.: Stonecroft, 1926. 237–272.

Miller, Edwin Haviland, and Rosalind S. Miller. Walt Whitman's Correspondence: A Checklist. New York: New York Public Library, 1957.

Myerson, Joel. Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1993.

___, ed. The Walt Whitman Archive: A Facsimile of the Poet's Manuscripts. 3 vols. 6 parts. New York: Garland, 1993.

Randle, Betty, ed. Catalogue of the Collection of Walt Whitman Literature Presented to the Dunedin Public Library by W.H. Trimble. Dunedin, New Zealand: Dunedin Public Library, 1975.

Shay, Frank. The Bibliography of Walt Whitman. New York: Friedmans, 1920.

Stark, Lewis M., and John D. Gordon, comps. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass": A Centenary Exhibition from the Lion Whitman Collection and the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. New York: New York Public Library, 1955.

Triggs, Oscar Lovell. "Bibliography of Walt Whitman." The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman. Ed. Richard Maurice Bucke, Thomas B. Harned, and Horace L. Traubel. Vol. 10. New York: Putnam, 1902. 139–233.

Wells, Carolyn, and Alfred F. Goldsmith. A Concise Bibliography of the Works of Walt Whitman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922.

White, William. "Walt Whitman: A Bibliographical Checklist." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 3.1 (1985): 28–43.

____. "Walt Whitman's Journalism: A Bibliography." Walt Whitman Review 14 (1968): 67–141.

____. "Walt Whitman's Poetry in Periodicals: A Bibliography." Serif 11 (1974): 31–38.

____. "Walt Whitman's Short Stories: Some Comments and a Bibliography." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 52 (1958): 300–306.


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

Asselineau, Roger. "Walt Whitman." Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism. Ed. James Woodress. Rev. ed. New York: Norton, 1971. 225–272.

Boswell, Jeanetta. "Walt Whitman." The American Renaissance and the Critics. By Boswell. Wakefield, N.H.: Longwood Academic, 1990. 411–502.

____. Walt Whitman and the Critics: A Checklist of Criticism, 1900–1978. The Scarecrow Author Bibliographies, No. 51. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1980.

Chanover, E. Pierre. "Walt Whitman: A Psychological and Psychoanalytic Bibliography." Psychoanalytic Review 59 (1972): 467–474.

Folsom, Ed. "Prospects for the Study of Walt Whitman." Resources for American Literary Study 20 (1994): 1–15.

____. "The Whitman Project: A Review Essay." Philological Quarterly 61 (1982): 369–394.

Giantvalley, Scott. "Walt Whitman, 1819–1892." Research Guide to Biography and Criticism. Ed. Walton Beacham. Washington: Research Publishing, 1985. 1265–1270.

____. Walt Whitman, 1838–1939: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1981.

____. "Walt Whitman, 1838–1939: A Reference Guide: Additional Annotations." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 4.1 (1986): 24–40.

Howard, Patsy C., comp. "Walt Whitman." Theses in American Literature 1896–1971. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pierian , 1973. 238–244.

Jason, Philip K. Nineteenth-Century American Poetry: An Annotated Bibliography. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem, 1989. 146–188.

Johnson, Thomas H., and Richard M. Ludwig. "Walt(er) Whitman." Literary History of the United States: Bibliography. 4th ed. Ed. Robert E. Spiller et al. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1974. 759–768, 997–1001, 1310–1313.

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

Kummings, Donald D. "Materials." Approaches to Teaching Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Ed. Kummings. New York: MLA, 1990. 3–22.

____. "Walt Whitman Bibliographies: A Chronological Listing, 1897–1982." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 1.4 (1984): 38–45.

____. Walt Whitman, 1940–1975: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1982.

Loving, Jerome. "Walt Whitman." The Transcendentalists: A Review of Research and Criticism. Ed. Joel Myerson. New York: MLA, 1984. 375–383.

Nilon, Charles H. "Whitman, Walt." Bibliography of Bibliographies in American Literature. By Nilon. New York: Bowker, 1970. 159–165.

Reynolds, David S. "Bibliographic Essay on Walt Whitman." Walt Whitman and the Visual Arts. Ed. Geoffrey M. Sill and Roberta K. Tarbell. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1992. 175–182.

Ruppert, James. "Whitman, Walt." Guide to American Poetry Explication. Vol. 1. Boston: Hall, 1989. 199–234.

Tanner, James T.F. "Walt Whitman Bibliographies: A Chronological Listing, 1902–1964." Bulletin of Bibliography 25 (1968): 131–132.

Thorp, Willard. "Walt Whitman." Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: Norton, 1963. 271–318. Bibliographical Supplement by J. Chesley Mathews, 445–451.

White, William. "Whitman in the Eighties: A Bibliographical Essay." Walt Whitman: Here and Now. Ed. Joann P. Krieg. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985. 217–224.

Woodress, James. "Whitman, Walt." Dissertations in American Literature, 1891–1966. Rev. ed. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1968. [90–92].


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