“Everything you know about Walt Whitman is just wrong,” chuckles Whitman scholar Mitchell Santine Gould, before adding a parenthetical "almost."
Starting Oct. 3, Gould will offer vital corrections, in his six-week lecture series for Oregon Coast Community College in Lincoln City, entitled “Whitman at 200.”
“Walt turned 200 years old this past May," Gould said. "Let’s not spend the next 200 years recycling simplistic cliches and urban myths.”
His lectures will reveal an innovative alternative to the obsolete “solitary singer” concept of Whitman, perfected in the 1955 biography by Gay Wilson Allen. Decades of research conducted by the author situate the poet at the intersection of the three worlds originally mentioned (and later expurgated!), in Whitman’s flagship epic, “Song of Myself;” namely, the “sailor lover or quaker” culture of antebellum New York — which turned Manhattan into the nation’s maritime powerhouse.
Gould’s website, LeavesofGrass.org, and his articles in Walt Whitman: an Encyclopedia, Quaker History and Quaker Theology, have furnished the historical evidence for these startling insights.
The fallacies Gould will explode include the most common misunderstandings of Walt Whitman, his life and times, and his writings: the supposed confusion over his sexual orientation; his relation to Quakerism; the “solitary” view of his authorship; the proposition that he was exclusively ahead of his times; his crucial claim to ignorance of Emerson prior to Leaves of Grass; the usual claim that his poetic format was unprecedented; and even, the proposition that fundamentally he was a poet.
“Fundamentally, Whitman was a human-rights advocate — before, during and after the pinnacle of Leaves of Grass,” Gould said. “Everyone thinks of Walt as the male answer to Emily Dickinson. In reality, he was the male answer to the Quaker lesbian, Susan B Anthony.”
Gould’s growing interest in antebellum history distracted him from a career in science while he earned Masters degrees in physics and anatomy. He became a technical writer and published two books on multimedia development, before concentrating on historical research.
In 2018, Gould left his beloved Portland behind, to make a home in Lincoln City with his “camerado,” Rusty Keller — where they are establishing a guesthouse called Lakeheart BnB. Gould serves on the city’s Sustainability Committee and is active in environmental advocacy.