Restoring the Lost Novels of Walt Whitman: A Targeted Archival Search
This project originates in a pair of discoveries I made in 2015-16, when I uncovered not one, but two books published in secret by the poet Walt Whitman: Manly Health and Training (1858) and Life and Adventures of Jack Engle (1852). The recovery of these lost works raises the curtain on a dimly understood period of the poet’s life: the mid-1850s, when he was first creating his magnum opus, Leaves of Grass (1855), under the influence (we now know) of all sorts of previously unknown social and literary influences. To build off of these successes, my proposal requests support for the pursuit of two further lost Whitman novels: The Sleeptalker (ca. 1851) and Proud Antoinette (ca. 1858-9). There is abundant manuscript evidence suggesting that these books were indeed published, likely serialized in one of several newspapers held in the New York Public Library (New York, NY) or the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA). Thus, I request Seed Grant funding to support a four-week research trip to visit both institutions in tandem. The recovery of either Whitman text would not only further rock the foundations of American literary studies, but also draw major international attention to the University of Idaho.