Cosmic consciousness in James Agee's Let us now praise famous men

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Donna Reiss Friedman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Donald Darnell

Abstract: The influence of Walt Whitman on the style and themes used by James Agee is best seen in Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Both Whitman himself and Richard M. Bucke referred to Whitman as a "poet of the cosmos," and in Start with the Sun: Studies in Cosmic Poetry, James E. Miller, Jr., Karl Shapiro, and Bernice Slote discuss "cosmic consciousness" in the work of Dylan Thomas, D. H. Lawrence, and Hart Crane. Cosmic consciousness is defined by Miller, Shapiro, and Slote as an elevation of the consciousness to an awareness of the harmony and unity of all elements in the universe, such as Whitman experienced in "Song of Myself." Agee felt and several times stated that Whitman's poetry was influential on his own work and thought, but the extent of that influence is apparent more in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men than in any of his other works. In many ways Famous Men represents Agee's own transformation from human to cosmic consciousness, in the same way that "Song of Myself" represents Whitman's cosmic elevation.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1968
Agee, James, $d 1909-1955 $x Criticism and interpretation
Agee, James, $d 1909-1955. $t Let us now praise famous men

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