Walt Whitman and the Art of Loafing

OCT 10, 2013 | 6:30 PM

The National Archives, Walt Whitman taken circa 1863



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




October 10, 2013: 6:30 PM




Walt Whitman’s status as Western literature’s most

prominent loafer has long been recognized, but the

cultural, linguistic, and philosophical meanings of

the activity of loafing in his poetry and prose has

yet to be considered in detail. This talk will survey

this subject by examining the positive and negative

manifestations of loafing in antebellum New York,

the milieu from which Whitman’s loafing arises,

how Whitmanic loafing converges with its poetic

precedents in British and American literature, and

at Whitman’s powerful figurations of the loafer in

signal poems from Leaves of Grass. By focusing

on these historical and aesthetic facets of his work,

we can invigorate our understanding of Whitman’s

artful loafing both from within his time and within

the broader context of Western literature.

Charles W. Rowe is a first year PhD student in

English Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

He is a graduate of the MA in Liberal Studies (MALS)

Program and the winner of the inaugural MALS

thesis prize. He is interested in tracing the poetic and

philosophic intersections between British Romanticism

and the American Renaissance and more generally in

poetics, affect theory, and the religious and intellectual

backgrounds of Romanticism.