I Contain Multitudes

A Reading of Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” by the USD Community

As a celebration of the true heterogeneity of the USD community and of human life in general, we present here a reading in multiple voices of Walt Whitman's great poem, Song of Myself. Envisioned at a time of unparalleled challenges for our nation and our world, the voices assembled here provide a vision of fundamental unity amid our treasured diversity.

Brian R. Clack, PhD
A. Vassiliadis Director of the Humanities Center

seated portrait of a young Walt Whitman, holding a cane and wearing a suit, bowtie and hat Walt Whitman, c 1852. Courtesy: Library of Congress
wide shot view of the grass and trees in front of the Immaculata Church on USD campus Play Video
I Contain Multitudes A Reading of Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” by the USD Community

 

View the full list of 57 participants below from staff and administrators across campus, including the USD President, to alumni and current and incoming students. Jump directly to any section of the video by clicking the timestamp next to the reader's name.

Participants

  • Readers and Sections

Director's Talkback

This project was imagined and produced in enthusiastic collaboration among four colleagues who found hope and sustenance with Whitman's words: Malachi Black (Associate Professor of English), Brian Clack (A. Vassiliadis Director of the Humanities Center), Eric Derr (Music Operations Director) and Noelle Norton (Dean, College of Arts and Sciences). Whitman wrote his poetry at the height of America's most turbulent period in history. The producers of this project recognize the value in listening to these words at this moment in time.    


More Walt Whitman

Mark Edmundson, PhD, USD's Knapp Chair of Liberal Arts in 2019, brought to our campus his three-part lecture series, Walt Whitman and the Battle for Democracy. The visiting professor from the University of Virginia discussed Walt Whitman, his poetry and his vision of democracy. Though Whitman published his greatest poem Song of Myself in 1855, he remains a poet of the present: we still have not fully realized, or even completely understood, his hopes. Reflecting on Whitman today puts us in a position to respond to our current crisis of democracy.

Seated portrait of Walt Whitman with the lecture title Play Video
Whitman's Beginnings — Who Was Walt Whitman? Lecture One

How did a poet with no advanced education and no previous literary distinction come to write the great poem of democracy, Song of Myself? The first lecture explores the beginning of the poem, positioning Whitman to begin his quest. Discover how he merges self and soul, and how he develops his great metaphor for democracy: the grass.

Seated portrait of Walt Whitman with the lecture title Play Video
The Great Work, “Song of Myself” Lecture Two

This lecture considers Song of Myself as the record of a quest in which Whitman strives to become a representative democratic individual and to redefine his nation. From this vantage, he reflects on violence, ponders the place of Jesus and of God, and ultimately encounters death.

Seated portrait of Walt Whitman with the lecture title Play Video
The Hospitals and Beyond Lecture Three

Whitman's quest culminates not on the last page of Song of Myself, but in the Civil War hospitals where he spent two years bringing aid to the wounded and dying. There he became a version of the democratic individual that the poem prophesies. From this position, we will explore our current crisis of democracy—and see how we might resolve it.