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TelegraphiesIndigeneity, Identity, and Nation in America's Nineteenth-Century Virtual Realm$
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Kay Yandell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190901042

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190901042.001.0001

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Engineering Eden in Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India”

Engineering Eden in Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India”

Chapter:
(p.129) 5 Engineering Eden in Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India”
Source:
Telegraphies
Author(s):

Kay Yandell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190901042.003.0006

Walt Whitman wrote odes to Morse’s telegraph that present it as a cultural “monument” speaking its nation’s mythic history in the making. His telegraph poems imagine the electromagnetic telegraph to perform a spiritual purpose: for Whitman, the disembodied nature of telegraphy’s virtual realm allows settlers’ voices, and the nation’s mythic origin stories that those voices carry, to spread across, and eventually to soak into, newly colonized American lands. In so doing, telegraphy births a new and specifically American sort of electric oral tradition, which Whitman poetically links to the power of this land’s previous Native American oral traditions to construct spiritual connections to American earth and environments. His poems imagine for American settlers a new type of indigeneity through telegraphy.

Keywords:   transcendentalism, Walt Whitman, Passage to India, indigeneity, telegraph

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