Useful Antagonists: Transatlantic Influence, Sectionalism, and Whitman's Nationalist Project

Document Type


Publication Date



Argues that, “faced with a splintering American nation and the possibility of a militarized Mason-Dixon line, the antebellum Whitman conceived of the Atlantic as the single relevant national border,” leading him—“in an improbable bid to exchange sectionalism for Anglophobia”—to attack “the obstacles of sectionalism and transatlantic influence by treating them as part of the same problem, building his reputation as an authentically American writer through a strategic conflation of sectionalist and transatlantic pressures”; examines how Whitman’s antislavery writings “pass over the South as the primary object of criticism, and . . . draw the transatlantic scene from the periphery to the center of the narrative of American slavery”; and reads a number of Whitman’s poems, including “A Boston Ballad,” in the context of Whitman’s attempt to use British contempt for the United States as a spur for pulling the nation together.