Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Citizen Whitman

The Governing America in a Global Era program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs will host Jason Frank, Department of Government, Cornell University, on Friday, December 5. Frank's paper, available here, is entitled "Promiscuous Citizenship"; in it he develops a vision of citizenship from the writings of Walt Whitman. Here is an excerpt:
Whitman broke from dominant modes of imaging citizenship in America, which were typically characterized by different versions of democratic anti-urbanism. This is true, for example of the agrarian pastoral of Jeffersonian republicanism as well as the Transcendentalist embrace of “nature” and the “wild.” The contrasting image of citizenship that Whitman offers is promiscuous in several senses of the word. It is promiscuous first in the sense of being undiscriminating. “He judges not as the judge judges,” Whitman writes in the preface to Leaves, “but as the sun falling around a helpless thing.” Second, it is promiscuous in the sense that it emerges from mixed and promiscuous public contact and is, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines one sense of the term, “mixed and disorderly in composition or character.” Finally, it is promiscuous in the sense that it connotes erotic attachment to non-intimates. “Do you know,” Whitman asks his reader, “what it is to be loved by strangers?” The essay’s first section focuses on the democratic resources of ordinary and everyday attachments; the second section then turns to how Whitman develops his normative understanding attachment from the aesthetics of anonymous urban encounter.
The Miller Center's announcement continues:
The colloquium will be webcast live and archived at http://www.millercenter.org. Submit a question during the webcast between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. EST on December 5 to ColloquiumRSVP@gmail.com, and it may be read during the Q&A session.

Lunch will be served. This event is free and open to the public. However, an RSVP is required to ColloquiumRSVP@gmail.com or 434.924.4694 by Wednesday, December 3.