Walt Whitman’s America

A Cultural Biography

Publisher: Vintage
Winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Ambassador Book Award and
Finalist for the National for the Book Critics Circle Award

In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions. This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age.

Combing through the full range of Whitman's writing, David Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth-century American life: the convulsions of slavery and depression; the raffish dandyism of the Bowery "b'hoys"; the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines. We see how Whitman reconciled his own sexuality with contemporary social mores and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity. Brilliantly researched, captivatingly told, Walt Whitman's America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.


"Remarkably informative...I marked on page after page things about Whitman and his America I never knew before."
--Alfred Kazin, The New York Times Book Review

"Exhaustive...fascinating...an evocative portrait."
--Washington Post Book World

"Reynolds stands alone in showing, almost day by day, the finest roots of Whitman's genius...His scholarship lights Whitman from within."
--Philadelphia Inquirer