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The Geopoetics of Modernism$
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Rebecca Walsh

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060514

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060514.001.0001

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The “Terraqueous” Globe

The “Terraqueous” Globe

Walt Whitman and the Cosmological Geography of Humboldt and Somerville

(p.54) 2 The “Terraqueous” Globe
The Geopoetics of Modernism

Rebecca Walsh

University Press of Florida

This chapter uncovers some of modernism’s roots by demonstrating the engagement of Whitman’s “Passage to India” with teleological, cosmological geography popular in nineteenth-century America. This geography viewed the world as one harmonious whole that reflected a divine plan. It demonstrates Whitman’s familiarity with Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos and Mary Somerville’s Physical Geography, European texts popular in America that worked against nationalist and imperialist projects. The chapter argues that Whitman seizes the authority of the cosmological geographer and surpasses it with the power of the poet-printer. The possibilities for global connectedness that Whitman establishes in “Passage to India” provide the foreground and the field imaginary for what twentieth-century modernist writers do with their experimental poetics.

Keywords:   Walt Whitman, “Passage to India”, Cosmological geography, Alexander von Humboldt, Mary Somerville, American exceptionalism, imperialism, parataxis, anaphora

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