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Appropriation and Misappropriation in American Culture
Walt Whitman, a man, an American, a poet, a legend, a self-purported “kosmos.” Considering the many sides of Whitman, so it is no surprise that he often turns up in some unexpected places in American culture. From print ads to techno songs, the list of Whitman references is endless. Given his popularity, it is inevitable that the use of his image or poetry will at some point be abused or misinterpreted, however that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of thoughtful interpretations of Whitman available in American culture.
This project is an examination of the way in which Walt Whitman-- as man, poet and American--has been used as an iconic figure in American culture. It discusses whether or not these many interpretations of Whitman are a misappropriation of Whitman's original values, or if they are truly representative of him. I have divided the project into three sections: Whitman as spokesperson, Whitman as American legend, and Whitman as American icon and poet. While all of these categories overlap in some way, I have separated them by which category the examples draw on most heavily. The examples used in these categories are print advertisements, the Levi’s jeans Go Forth campaign, and Whitman references in movies and music, respectively.