Research Diary: Finding Jerome Loving’s Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself

1.  The most difficult thing about conducting research is knowing where to look – thus, like students everywhere I turned to Wikipedia, hoping  to brush up on my knowledge of Walt Whitman.  Though scholars cannot use Wikipedia as a valid source, checking the “Notes” sections for works cited is always a good way to find a reputable critic or scholar.  I was particularly interested in Walt Whitman as an icon, so the phrase “He died at age 72 and his funeral became a public spectacle,” intrigued me.  An endnote was attached, so I immediately scrolled to the “Notes” section to find the source of this information, which came from Jerome Loving’s book Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself.

2.  I then went to check the Milton S. Eisenhower Library’s website to see if Johns Hopkins University owned the book.  Luckily for me, it does.  Also luckily for me, it was available.

3.  I walked over to MSE Library to pick up the book in person, as there was no electronic copy that was housed by the Internet.

4.  After copying down the call number (PS3231.L68 1999), I descended into the depths of D-Level where the Blue Label books are kept.  It took a little while to find, as occasionally the books are out of order, but it didn’t take to long to spot.  Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself firmly in hand, I returned to M-Level to check it out.

I was extremely fortunate to have located and captured this book with little trouble – first that MSE Library owned the book and second that the book was available.  Flipping through the pages, it was clear to me that The Song of Himself was extremely valuable to me because it wasn’t just a biography of Whitman, but a scholarly biography.  Loving carefully collects excerpts not just from his letters and his poetry, but also examples of articles that Whitman wrote for newspapers as well.  This was extremely helpful in understanding the relationship the poet had with the media, as well as fleshing out how Whitman functioned as both a writer and a national icon.


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