Poetic form as meaning in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

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The poetic forms of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, including its lineation and various rhythmic and syntactic patterns, are implied rather than inherent; that is, the poetic forms hold of the text as the contents of a set of implicatures, which mutually reinforce one another, and which hold somewhat loosely and with a certain degree of strength. This includes the division of the text into lines, and the presence of rhetorical groups, parallel sections, and rhythmic sequences; Whitman’s idiosyncratic punctuation contributes to this loose form. Form is not just attributed as a meaning of the text, but is also meaningful in the poem, whose ‘leaves of grass’ – both the sheets of the book and the lines of the poem - are on the one hand sheets of papyrus and on the other hand manifestations of the democratic spirit. The meaningfulness of the poetic form is enabled by its attributed status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-119
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Literary Semantics
Issue number2
Early online date6 Sep 2012
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2012


  • semantics
  • Walt Whitman
  • poetry
  • poetry meter

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