The public poet sings himself
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis considers the life and work of Welborn Victor Jenkins, an Atlanta-based African-American poet active between 1900 and 1950, with particular attention to his 1948 book-length poem The "Incident" at Monroe (a response to a mass lynching) and his self- presentation as a literary figure. Jenkins styled himself as a public poet in Walt Whitman's image, a visionary who spoke both to and for America with prophetic urgency; his work joins other African-American appropriations of Whitman that simultaneously reference Whitman as a validating forefather and critically revise his legacy as the definitively "American" voice. For Jenkins, this act of self-assertion both prepares a rhetorical space for his vatic long poems and becomes a vital part of their jeremiadic argument: in appealing to an envisioned ideal of American democracy -- its promise of life, liberty, and self-determination -- he derives prophetic authority to protest America's denial of that promise to African Americans.