Fall 1980 • Vol. II No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1980 |

Making Visible the Common World: Walt Whitman and Feminist Poetry

                        for Estelle Freedman The past ten years have seen an interesting development in American literature: the publication of works by accomplished women writers, addressed to women readers. During this same decade major efforts have been launched in the nonliterary arenas of public life to attain for women social equality with men—equality usually understood to mean acceptance by men of women as peers. Why then do some women writers seek recognition not by men, nor by a predicated "universal" readership composed of both sexes, but specifically by other women? In the following pages I want to explore this question. I discuss analogies I see between the writing of two contemporary women—Susan Griffin and Adrienne Rich—and Walt Whitman writing "Song of Myself" in 1855. Griffin, Rich, and Whitman have all identified the poet's task as making visible a common world unacknowledged in the public realm of literature in

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