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The correspondence of Bernard O'Dowd and Walt Whitman: Indigeneity and the cosmopolitics of settler literary nationalism

Journal Article


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Abstract


  • In the last two years before his death, Walt Whitman

    corresponded regularly with an Australian poet named

    Bernard O'Dowd. While he would later reach great prominence

    O'Dowd was, at this time, an obscure antipodean nobody,

    a poetic dilettante whose voice was yet to emerge. On 15

    March 1891, Whitman wrote to his admiring antipodean correspondent

    noting that "[t]houghtful folks here are paying much

    attention to you south there & Canada north" (Whitman,

    Collected Writings 5:176). Despite this gesture of transnational

    comparison between the two countries, Whitman makes no apparent

    connection between the indigenous peoples of either

    dominion, nor does he invoke the indigenous peoples of North

    America. This omission of indigenous Australians is a perplexing

    lacuna given his deep concern with Native Americans, for

    instance in the references to "Red Aborigines" in Starting from

    Paumanok, or to the "Squaw, wrapt in her yellow hemm' d cloth"

    passing among the multitudes of Song of Myself, or indeed to

    the "Austral Negro" highlighted in my epigraph (Leaves 30-1,

    52). Whitman's association of Canada and Australia seems to

    be largely predicated on the connection of either to the United

    Kingdom. "The advice" of American writers on the two imperially

    governed nation states "is not to be in too g't a hurry to cut

    loose from G't Britain-but you both are the best judges and

    deciders of that" (Whitman, Collected Writings 5: 176). Despite

    this lacuna, there is a great deal to warrant the comparison between

    Whitman's attitude to the place of indigenous peoples in

    his vision of nation and a comparable articulation in O'Dowd's

    work. Each shares an insistence on nativist appropriations of

    indigeneity as the grounding of an embrace of difference that is

    nonetheless refused to the living indigenous subject.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Griffiths, M. R. (2012). The correspondence of Bernard O'Dowd and Walt Whitman: Indigeneity and the cosmopolitics of settler literary nationalism. Antipodes: a global journal of Australian/New Zealand literature, 26 (2), 197-202.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2220&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1215

Number Of Pages


  • 5

Start Page


  • 197

End Page


  • 202

Volume


  • 26

Issue


  • 2

Abstract


  • In the last two years before his death, Walt Whitman

    corresponded regularly with an Australian poet named

    Bernard O'Dowd. While he would later reach great prominence

    O'Dowd was, at this time, an obscure antipodean nobody,

    a poetic dilettante whose voice was yet to emerge. On 15

    March 1891, Whitman wrote to his admiring antipodean correspondent

    noting that "[t]houghtful folks here are paying much

    attention to you south there & Canada north" (Whitman,

    Collected Writings 5:176). Despite this gesture of transnational

    comparison between the two countries, Whitman makes no apparent

    connection between the indigenous peoples of either

    dominion, nor does he invoke the indigenous peoples of North

    America. This omission of indigenous Australians is a perplexing

    lacuna given his deep concern with Native Americans, for

    instance in the references to "Red Aborigines" in Starting from

    Paumanok, or to the "Squaw, wrapt in her yellow hemm' d cloth"

    passing among the multitudes of Song of Myself, or indeed to

    the "Austral Negro" highlighted in my epigraph (Leaves 30-1,

    52). Whitman's association of Canada and Australia seems to

    be largely predicated on the connection of either to the United

    Kingdom. "The advice" of American writers on the two imperially

    governed nation states "is not to be in too g't a hurry to cut

    loose from G't Britain-but you both are the best judges and

    deciders of that" (Whitman, Collected Writings 5: 176). Despite

    this lacuna, there is a great deal to warrant the comparison between

    Whitman's attitude to the place of indigenous peoples in

    his vision of nation and a comparable articulation in O'Dowd's

    work. Each shares an insistence on nativist appropriations of

    indigeneity as the grounding of an embrace of difference that is

    nonetheless refused to the living indigenous subject.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Griffiths, M. R. (2012). The correspondence of Bernard O'Dowd and Walt Whitman: Indigeneity and the cosmopolitics of settler literary nationalism. Antipodes: a global journal of Australian/New Zealand literature, 26 (2), 197-202.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2220&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1215

Number Of Pages


  • 5

Start Page


  • 197

End Page


  • 202

Volume


  • 26

Issue


  • 2