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Title: Walt Whitman's search for a healthy mental therapeutic
Author: Black, Peter James
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2007
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The study examines Whitman's engagement with mind-cure and mental science therapies between 1855 and 1872. Key poems in "Leaves of Grass", 1855 and 1856, are analysed to propose that Whitman reformulates elements of his Preface 1855 to construct a masterclass format on positive thinking. The study argues that significant poems in 1856 utilise such an innovative, instructive mode, combining this with a critique of the populist phrenology of Fowler and Wells. The complexity of Whitman's engagement with The American Phrenological Journal is investigated. Whitman, it is claimed, identifies phrenologists and other purveyors of advice such as Weaver and Beecher as "manacled spirits", whose offering of succour through mental therapeutics is repressive, moralistic and rigidly didactic. By contrast he champions independent thinking in opposition to such advice, and uses the frontispiece of "Song of Myself' to critique a key didactic feature of the American Phrenological Journal, the "Phrenological Portrait". The study proposes that by 1860 Whitman took a more conflicted stance to the evolving mind- therapies and began to adopt, into his poetic, strands of mind-cure therapeutics related to the construction of "magnetic personality", and of abstract spiritual fulfilment. This conflicted stance surfaces in the reorganisation, post 1860, of "Song of Joys" and is carried on into Democratic Vistas . Overall the study argues for Whitman engaging purposefully and critically with mind-cure therapies so as to generate his own therapy of the mind, designed to raise his listeners' self-esteem, and their ability to think for themselves.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available