This book focuses on three relatively unknown antebellum poets—African American separatist James M. Whitfield, Mormon pioneer Eliza R. Snow, and Cherokee journalist John Rollin Ridge—and the affinities they shared with Walt Whitman, including an awareness of the symbolic value that came with speaking for the nation from the fringes of national culture. It also considers some of the primary features of Whitman's project for American poetry that can also be found in Whitfield, Snow, and Ridge, such as the desire to be the poet of a new American religion, and also examines how Whitfield, Snow, and Ridge recast their identities as their qualifications to speak to and for the nation as American bards. In addition, the book explains how their shift away from the exclusivity of national identity toward various kinds of intranational and supranational allegiances enabled them to present an alternative to the literary nationalism that has long defined the antebellum period.
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