“Welcome Sign” by Flickr user davidking
As Project Director of “Looking for Whitman,” it gives me great pleasure to welcome students from the University of Mary Washington, New York City College of Technology, Rutgers
University-Camden, and University of Novi Sad to our project website!
This is an exciting moment in higher education, when traditional methods of teaching and learning are changing dramatically as new kinds of technologies allow us to connect our classrooms to the world in exciting ways.
And that’s what this project is all about: taking individual classrooms of students from different institutions and connecting them to one another as they embark upon a joint semester-long study of Walt Whitman’s poetry and the places in which he lived.
Each school involved in the project has been carefully chosen for its lead faculty members, its location, and (of course) for its students. ”Looking for Whitman” centers on three locations, each very important to Walt Whitman’s life and work:
In New York, where Whitman lived from his birth to mid-life, students from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY will explore Whitman’s connections to the Brooklyn Waterfront, Lower Manhattan, and Long Island, and will focus particularly on Whitman’s early work, including the landmark 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. At the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, students will consider Whitman’s mid-career experiences as a nurse in the Civil War, and will focus on his war-related writing of the 1860s. Students in two classes at Rutgers University-Camden will explore Whitman’s late career as they investigate Camden, the city in which Whitman spent the final decades of his long life. Our fourth location, in Serbia, is a wonderful addition to the project that will make it international in scope.
The faculty members involved in this project have been meeting for the better part of a year to come up with plans for the Fall 2009 semester. We’re excited about the connections and collaborations that are going to take place through our joint projects and assignments, and we hope that you, the students involved in the project, will take advantage of this website to document your encounters with Whitman’s fascinating writing.
Walt Whitman was an author for whom nothing was more important than connecting to his audience. He wanted to shrink the distance between writer and reader, to reach up out of the page to touch the eyes and hands exploring his body of work.
In 2009, the connections that Whitman dreamed about in the nineteenth century can be realized in new ways. As you spend the semester taking photos, making movies, writing essays, exploring research archives, and, most importantly, reading poetry, we hope that you’ll share your discoveries with your peers, and with the world, as generously and with as much enthusiasm as Walt shared his work with us.
Allons! The road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.
Allons! Be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in the pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
– From “Song of the Open Road“
I can’t wait to hear what your own Song of the Open Road will sound like.
– Prof. Matthew Gold, New York City College of Technology, CUNY