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Abstract

In his article, "El gran viejo: Walt Whitman in Latin America," Josef Raab examines the role and relevance of Walt Whitman within Latin American poetry. It is observed that since the publication of José Martí's essay of 1887, "El Poeta Walt Whitman," Whitman has been a prominent figure in the literary imagination of Latin America. While Martí lauded Whitman as a prophet, his reception in the Americas is far from homogeneous, however. Raab's study addresses ways in which some of the more prominent Latin American poets -- José Martí, Rubén Darío, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Vinícius de Moraes, Jorge Luis Borges, and Octavio Paz -- have re-fashioned Walt Whitman. Further, Raab argues that the reception of and response to Whitman illustrate that we can think of Whitman as a kind of Rorschach test: The ways in which he is being read and employed by Latin American writers reveal more about his readers than about him. Depending on their own poetic and political agendas, Latin American poets pick up (approvingly or disapprovingly) divergent aspects of Whitman's sometimes contradictory positions, thus constructing their own versions of Whitman and integrating them into their own poetic imagination and practice. The heterogeneous appropriations of Whitman by Latin American poets underline the vitality and polyvocal quality of Whitman's work and the continuing appeal of the man whom Darío called el gran viejo.

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