What did Whitman and Dickinson teach you?

Now that we are at the end of our course, I am curious, from the readings we have done, from all the poems that we have read, what is a lesson that either Whitman or Dickinson (or a lesson from each of them) taught you? While Dr. Scanlon was our professor for this course, I like to view both Whitman and Dickinson as our “Teacher Aides” or a “Co-Professor” in a way and I believe that their work does its own form of teaching. What did you learn from these poets? What is something you will take away from this course?


For me, I felt with Whitman and Dickinson this desire and urge to live unapologetically and I think that is what touched me the most.

15 Replies to “What did Whitman and Dickinson teach you?”

  1. I learned a lot about Dickinson and the meaning behind her poems. I’ll definitely have to read more of her poems.

  2. Whitman taught me a lot about brotherly and friendly love while reading the Drum Taps poems. Although a lot of his poetry about men is interpreted as homoerotic, I found more brotherly love when Whitman discussed war. It was intimate and loving, and that is not often publicized about men today.

  3. That is an interesting way to view Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson Morgan, as our teacher aides, or if you will “co-professors”! I would have to agree with you that Whitman and Dickinson, as we have learned throughout the semester, were unorthodox and unconventional in their ideas and viewpoints about critical subjects of the time; religion, faith in God, sexuality, gender-stereotypes, marriage, adhesiveness, amativeness, the importance of achieving a connection between the mind and the soul to the divine through having sexual relations with another person, death, mental health, etc. (just to name a few of the topics that we have covered over the semester). I would also have to agree with Sarah, that Whitman was indeed fond of universal brotherhood and brotherly love, in the “Drum Taps”poem, in the poem “I Sing the Body Electric”. I also agree that Whitman and Dickinson also taught us to challenge institutions that wish to normalize or behavior and judgment, and I loved this fact about our two author’s Whitman and Dickinson!

  4. Before this course, I had only ever read a few of Dickinson’s poems in an American Literature class, and nothing by Whitman at all. I did not know anything about these two poets as people, nor did I really care to know anything about either of them.

    After learning about who these two poets were and how they chose to represent themselves, I can safely say that Whitman and Dickinson have reinforced the idea for me that it’s okay to forge your own path as a writer as opposed to just sticking to “the rules of writing.” Both WW and ED chose to do what felt right and interesting to themselves, and I admire that quite a lot.

  5. I really enjoy reading all of the comments and seeing what Dickinson and Whitman taught you all. I think that their work speaks volumes about them and also have a lot of lessons that can be placed on the world we live in today. I also think that Whitman and Dickinson are the types of writers that today you can read and take one thing from them and apply it to your life or thinking and then in three years, read them again and find a whole new lesson or meaning. They seem pretty revolutionary in that way, and that is one of my favorite things about them.
    I was sure I had never read any of their work outside of my 11th grade AP English class, but in the process of cleaning and reorganizing my bookshelf, I found a copy of “Leaves of Grass” and a collection of Dickinson’s poems and flipped through it. I’m pretty sure I got them the summer before my senior year and the notes in the margins and comments I made back then are so different than what I would say or take from their works now.
    Overall, I am glad that we have all found little mini-lessons from our two poets this semester.

  6. Both poets reminded me of a writer’s responsibility to be truthful about who you are in that particular moment. I believe this vulnerability is what allows us to see ourselves in art and feel a cohesiveness with others.

  7. Dickinson taught me to keep a piece of paper on me at all times to be able to write down any inspiring thoughts I might have. Whitman taught me to apologetically take as many selfies of myself as I want.

  8. Before this course, I enjoyed all of Dickinson’s poems I had read in prior classes. But now I have been able to view her work in a new light because of all the background knowledge I have learned about her through this class. I had no idea that she so educated and prestigious. I also am in awe about how she did not publish any of her work. As I somewhat understand why, that will forever baffle me. I have gained so much respect for ED.

  9. From Whitman’s and Dickinson’s poems, I was able to see some new approaches/ideas on critical subjects of the time, such as religion, sexuality, the connection between the body and the soul, etc. I especially liked the way the poets drew a connection between the body and the soul; though sometimes the body and the soul are contradicting with each other, their destination is meant to be the same. I have to agree that what Whitman and Dickinson taught me is to challenge institutions that continuously seek for what is normal and what is not. I loved how the poets touched on every possible critical subject of the time, with their own unconventional perspectives.

  10. Dickinson taught me that there is no one answer to healing one’s mental health. That you must accept your depression and it’s okay to be a loner.

    Whitman taught me to appreciate the world in different ways.

  11. I believe that both poets have taught me the importance of persevering in my artistic pursuits. I don’t mean that I should ignore advice on how to better myself. I just mean that if I feel like there is a purpose behind a method then I should stick with it. From Whitman specifically, I learned that an inclusive poet or artist is able to open up many doors of discussion. As for Dickinson, I learned that just because I create art, it doesn’t mean I have to share it for it to be valuable.

  12. If there is one thing I learned in this class, it’s that people should be proud of who they are, and what they have done in their lifetime, for that is as genuine a legacy as one can ever ask for. As for the poets, Whitman told me the best story a person can tell is their own, and Dickinson told me there’s more to people than what first impressions imply there is.

  13. Do not assume they are passionless and cerebral in their poems. Instead, embrace the full human experience that speaks through their words. We may be wrong or we may be right in how we interpret and explore each verse, stanza, line, and syllable. But as long as we are willing to dig in and meet them, it’s worth it. I loved Dickinson the most. Her poetry feels like there are so many layers to peel in one direction and than you find something that takes the meanings in a different direction.

  14. Both poets taught me not to be scared of poetry. They taught me of the rich meaning that’s in good poetry. As a writer, I am inspired by their ability to communicate so effectively in so few words and select words that so vividly illustrate unique ideas. Dickinson’s writing was especially impressive for me due to her concise pieces, though I enjoyed Whitman more for his beautiful descriptions, especially of nature. They help me appreciate nature around me. Plus, I like the spiritual perspective on connection to everything in nature.

  15. Before this class, I had really only read one Walt Whitman poem. That poem was O Captain! My Captain!. Whitman helped me understand loss in a way that I didn’t before and with this class I see that there was vulnerability in his ability to be honest in his work and about himself.

Leave a Reply