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American BardsWalt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet$
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Edward Whitley

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834213

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899427_whitley

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Eliza R. Snow

Eliza R. Snow

Poet of a New American Religion

(p.67) Chapter Two Eliza R. Snow
American Bards

Edward Whitley

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines Walt Whitman's collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, focusing on his claim that it was an American sacred text, the “Bible of the New Religion.” It compares Whitman's ambition to be the poet of a new American religion with that of Eliza R. Snow, the recognized poet laureate of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was regarded by the Mormons not only as a poetess but also a “priestess” and a “prophetess.” The chapter considers how Snow used her poetry to depict the recovery of such ancient practices as polygamy and theocracy as an essential precondition for an American millennium, rather than as a historical aberration. It also offers a close reading of “Time and Change,” the major poem of Snow's 1856 collection, before concluding with an analysis of the issue of gender, particularly with respect to Snow's efforts to have her female voice heard by an androcentric nation.

Keywords:   gender, Walt Whitman, poetry, Leaves of Grass, religion, Eliza R. Snow, Latter-day Saints, Mormons, polygamy, theocracy

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