UVA Today features Library exhibition “Encompassing Multitudes: The Song of Walt Whitman”

The latest edition of UVA Today features an article on the opening of the Library’s current exhibition “Encompassing Multitudes: The Song of Walt Whitman” in the main gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library. The exhibition will run through July 27 to celebrate the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth on May 31, 1819.

Longtime Special Collections employee George Riser is the exhibition’s chief curator in a team that includes Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor of English; Lisa Russ Spaar, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program; Charlotte Hennessy, Library Ambassador at the University of Virginia; and Holly Robertson, UVA Library exhibitions coordinator.

Displays, drawn primarily from the Library’s Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, feature various editions of Leaves of Grass as well as Whitman’s handwritten versions of poems, anti-slavery essays, prose writings about Abraham Lincoln, letters and notes from when he served as a nurse during the Civil War, and his own Bible with the leaves that he pressed inside.

Also included in the exhibition are manuscript pages that Whitman wrote for the third edition of Leaves of Grass, poems published interspersed in a section called “Calamus,” “that when looked at in sequence tell of an unhappy love affair with a man.”  The manuscript pages are being displayed in sequence for the first time since the late UVA English professor Fredson Bowers discovered their relationship while researching Whitman’s manuscripts for the third edition.

Deborah McDowell, director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute and Alice Griffin Professor of English, joins the curators for a panel discussion at 5:00 p.m. in the Harrison/Small auditorium and will read from the preface to the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

For more about the Library exhibition, read the article “Walt Whitman at 200: Still ‘Encompassing Multitudes’ After All These Years” (UVA Today 3/4/2019).

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