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Walt Whitman: A Bicentennial Celebration

Apr 26, 2019

All Day

University of Iowa Main Library, Main Library Gallery

125 West Washington Street, Iowa City, IA 52242

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Walt Whitman - A Bicentennial Celebration

The exhibit “Walt Whitman: A Bicentennial Celebration” will celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of one of the most significant and influential writers in the United States, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and highlight the University of Iowa’s role as a major center for Whitman Studies and Whitman scholarship. The exhibit features items held by the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections that reveal the development of Whitman’s literary career from his days as a journalist and fiction writer to his moving accounts of his volunteer work in the Civil War hospitals in Washington, D.C., and from his radical poetic experiments in publishing Leaves of Grass to his efforts to preserve his legacy as “America’s Poet” in his last years. The exhibit presents some of Whitman’s most beloved and familiar poems, including “Song of Myself” and “Calamus,” as well as less familiar works, such as his first short story, “Death in the School-Room,” and his bestselling 1842 temperance novel Franklin Evans. It also showcases Whitman’s skills as a bookmaker and his enthusiasm for and involvement in the printing and physical construction of his evolving book; it traces his lifetime of work rearranging and redesigning Leaves of Grass. The items on display also demonstrate Whitman’s incredible literary afterlife, as his writings have been translated and published worldwide and preserved in physical and digital forms. At a political and historical moment when American values and understandings of what constitutes this nation are being questioned, this exhibit facilitates discussion about Whitman as an American poet in the nineteenth century, about how we have read him and his writings over the past two hundred years, and about the place of Whitman and his writing in the future of American and worldwide democracy.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at