Edited By Jean Bessière and Gerald Gillespie
“Salut au Monde”: The World as Envisioned by World Literature
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The World as Envisioned by World Literature
University of Georgia, Athens
In a recent article published in The Comparatist, the Cuban-American critic Alfred Lopez discussed Jose Martí’s reading of Walt Whitman. From this article, I learned that Whitman was a cursory reader, perusing a dozen books at any time, reading a few pages here and there, seldom getting sufficiently interested in any volume to read it in its entirety, dipping into various genres and reading no language but English. Although he never travelled beyond North America, it did not prevent him from envisioning the many places he evokes in “Salut au Monde” though, as Lopez notes, “his own mystical, abstracted vision of an America is at once generalized and exceptional” (Lopez 2011: 5). The world Whitman presented in this poem was populated by undifferentiated Others “facilely reduced to ‘Camarados’ in turn subsumed into his Hegelian vision of America as an ever-expanding end-of-History” (Lopez 6).
Lopez compares the American poet to the Cuban Martí and speculates on their possible encounter at a reception following a lecture on Abraham Lincoln by Whitman at Madison Square Theatre in 1887. If Martí and Whitman did, in fact, speak, Lopez speculates that it would have been in English, although Martí could have dialogued in Spanish and French. Martí might have broached any number of interesting topics, since he was learned in the Classics and had advanced degrees...
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