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Research Papers on the Public Response to Leaves of Grass

Published in 1855, Walt Whitman's book Leaves of Grass generated words of caution even from those who supported Whitman’s brave new stance. For example, Henry David Thoreau cautioned that the book might be more than many people were prepared to deal with. One of the more generous reviews was written by Emerson, “I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass…I find it most extraordinary”. To counter the huge amount of criticism his work provoked Whitman turned to writing positive reviews and publishing them anonymously. Public Response to Leaves of GrassHowever, this tactic failed to sway members of proper society. In 1882 the book was banned in Boston after the district attorney of the city deemed it as in direct violation of the “Public Statutes concerning obscene literature”.

Leaves of Grass

The public response to Leaves of Grass is perfectly understandable given the attitudes regarding sex in the nineteenth century.

  • During this time sex was not a Public Response to Leaves of Grass open for public discussion
  • Even a subject that was discussed freely in the privacy of one’s home.
  • It was a natural act that was performed yet not discussed.
  • Moreover, individuals went to great lengths to make sure the subject remained hidden. For example, people referred to undergarments as “unmentionables” and covered suggestive parts of furniture with material.

The need to hide anything sexual applied to art as well. In museums workers often cloaked nude statues in drapes; a practice deemed right and proper by the polite circles of society.

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