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‘Now I will do nothing but listen’ – Walt Whitman on how sound shapes the self

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music – this suits me.

‘Song of Myself’ was first published as an untitled selection in Walt Whitman’s landmark poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855), and was revised by Whitman until his death in 1892. The 52-section free-verse work is a vivid and sprawling exploration of selfhood narrated by an observer, who at times seems to transcend the constraints of the human mind. Part of a poetry series created for a Harvard University online neuroscience course, this video features words from the 26th section of ‘Song of Myself’ – a meditation on the ceaseless stream of sounds, mundane and sublime, that the narrator experiences. The video skilfully conjures Whitman’s prose, with a fluid, dreamlike animation style that captures the vivid sensuousness of his words, combined with Civil War imagery that alludes to the context in which they were written.

Animator: Daniela Sherer

Producer: Nadja Oertelt

7 January 2019

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