Honors Program


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Duke, Sara. "Walt Whitman: The Man Behind the Words." Bachelor of Arts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln, Nebraska. 2018.


Walt Whitman is often considered to be one of the greatest American poets. His ways of writing were unconventional, inappropriate to a degree (according to Victorian standards), yet they intrigued readers not only of the New World, but also those of the Old World. But his writing was not the only thing he was known for. The “Good Gray Poet” was also known for being gentle and warm-hearted, with a striking face and piercing blue eyes. He was welcoming to his neighbors, visitors, and passers-by on the street.

This thesis seeks to understand the man behind Leaves of Grass. Through careful analysis of Whitman’s collected interviews, housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Walt Whitman Archive, I analyze if the conclusions reached in the interviews are an accurate representation of who Walt Whitman was. I pay special attention to the interviews Whitman allegedly conducted with himself, and any biases that exist as a result. I have also elected to limit the scope of my interviews to dates prior to Whitman’s death, thus from October 15, 1866, to February 13, 1892.

This thesis is divided into five sections, each an attempt to further contextualize and explain Whitman’s interviews. The first addresses the historic background of the interview genre of the nineteenth century; second, Whitman’s character and alleged interview performance; third, Whitman’s collaboration with others; fourth, Whitman and his interviews with himself; and finally, a conclusion, where I will revisit the question of the accuracy of these interviews regarding Whitman’s character.