The rediscovery of a number of Walt Whitman's early fictions prompts a discussion of where they belong within the larger web of Whitman scholarship. Though we have been aware of the existence of these writings for quite some time, frequently these works return to obscurity soon after being discovered due to the lack of research regarding them. This thesis presents an alternative framework whereby these novels can be integrated into a hypertextual model centered on Leaves of Grass (1855) and Whitman's overall authorial identity. I build on Ed Folsom and Kenneth Price's work creating a hypertext archive incorporating Whitman's works, allowing constraints associated with traditional print form to be overcome. My analysis centers on the recently rediscovered novel The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle (1852) due to its unique publication date. Because we possess so little of Whitman's public writing from the immediate leadup to his first publication of Leaves of Grass, I focus on tracing linguistic and thematic development across the two works. With the help of digital textual analytical tools, I find specific links between the works and argue that Whitman used the novel to experiment with transcendental language and themes that would characterize his later poetic voice. Based on this connection, novels like The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle thrive due to their ability to offer new perspectives on the source text of Leaves of Grass. Within this model, Leaves of Grass also gains new importance due to highlighting the value of the satellite texts like The Life and Adventure of Jack Engle, remedying their previous ambiguous value when isolated. I then discuss how this hypertextual model aids scholars to more easily incorporate Whitman's fiction into future research due to the increased accessibility it provides. Finally, the thesis discusses how this model repositions the role of the archive as more than simply a receptacle of preservation. Instead, it now operates as a source of redefinition by providing artifacts that reimagine period and authorial narratives through this hypertextual model.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Burright, Christopher Preston, "Walt Before Leaves: Complicating Whitman's Authorship Through Jack Engle" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 7388.
Walt Whitman, hypertext, Leaves of Grass, The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle