Walt Whitman and John Dewey (PS) Winter 2013


In Achieving Our Country (1998), philosopher Richard Rorty aspired to renew what he perceived as America’s pledge to democratic activism, scientific pragmatism, and social progress; a “progressive” political tradition given a distinctively national expression by the poetry of Walt Whitman and the philosophy of John Dewey.
This course will examine some key texts from a tradition anchored by Whitman and Dewey, though spread widely across literary and philosophical disciplines. Through analysis and discussions of a cultural history comprising social poetry, pragmatist psychology, muckraking journalism and “politically conscious” hip-hop, we will reflect not just on the construction of a progressive legacy, but consider the still ambitious project to achieve a harmony between social equality and personal liberty in light of contemporary political and economic conditions.


In addition to expanding the knowledge of U.S. cultural history, the course aims to cultivate critical analysis through discussions, presentations, and short in-class writing responses.



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