Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jennica for October Fifteen

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 9:50 am on Thursday, October 15, 2009


Since I get the honor of breathing in Whitman not once, but twice a week, yesterday, for my Whitman class #1 we digested semiotic analysis— a type of critical theory that involves a system of signs. Not only does this critical analysis interest me, but when I read “Two Rivulets” by Walt Whitman, the theory stood out even more. For instance, observe Whitman’s “Two Rivulets” with semiotics in mind:

Two Rivulets side by side, 
Two blended, parallel, strolling tides, 
Companions, travelers, gossiping as they journey. 
For the Eternal Ocean bound, 
These ripples, passing surges, streams of Death and Life,
Object and Subject hurrying, whirling by, 
The Real and Ideal, 
Alternate ebb and flow the Days and Nights, 
(Strands of a Trio twining, Present, Future, Past.) 
In You, whoe’er you are, my book perusing,
In I myself—in all the World—these ripples flow, 
All, all, toward the mystic Ocean tending. 
(O yearnful waves! the kisses of your lips! 
Your breast so broad, with open arms, O firm, expanded shore!)

If you notice, there are not only signs that symbolize for something. But in one of the process for performing semiotics,
one must look for contradictions and/or binaries. Look once more at the poem above and try to see if you can find any
sets of binaries or opposites. For instance, there are several: "streams of Death and Life," "Object and Subject,"
"The Real and Ideal," "Days and Nights," "Future, Past."

However, what's even more interesting is that Whitman begins with parallelism and sameness: 
Two Rivulets side by side, 
Two blended, parallel, strolling tides, 
Companions, travelers, gossiping as they journey. 

I think one of the beauties of Whitman's poems is his use of contradictions and oppositions,
but what's even more amazing is how he makes those binaries into balance and parallelism.
Because if you think about it, oppositions such as night and day, death and life, etc. are what
gives balance and keep the world in equilibrium... Amazing.



Comment by jennimarina

October 15, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

I really liked what you wrote about.


Comment by Carol Singley

October 28, 2009 @ 11:15 am

I’m delighted to see you inspired by structuralists and semiotic readings. Whitman’s poetry both identifies and defies these dualities, yes?

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