I intend to write a paper that explores how Whitman’s “Passage to India” and Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs place each poet’s voice in relationship to technological advances, primarily advances in electronic media, occurring in the world around them. I found this topic interesting, because as I read Sphar’s This Connection I was struck with the feeling that electronic communication was the invisible, but not silent, presence in her poem that seems to connect everyone and everything in the world together; for instance, media seems to saturate the later half of her poem when even the birds seem to be eerily singing or repeating news broadcasts.
So, I felt this idea—that electronic media seems to be the glue that holds everything in the world together disheartening, yet also intriguing at the same time. I also feel that Whitman was certainly hitting on a similar theme of telecommunication connecting the world together in “Passage to India,” yet it seems that Walt was embracing technological progress in this poem, and maybe saw advances in the telegraph as a way for the poet’s voice to become disembodied and hence more representative of a “natural” or “primordial” state of human existence that could lead to global reconciliation. Hence, Spahr’s poem seems to challenge Whitman’s view (at least in “Passage to India”) that engineering advances would be the great reconciler for all of humanity, but her poem simultaneously seems to assert Whitman’s view that communicating electronically would be the link that binds people together globally.
I’m still waffling on a final thesis, but I’ve found some really good sources that gel together nicely with my overall topic. So I feel pretty confortable with the research aspect of my paper. However, my primary concern right now is probably the lack of critical commentary on Spahr, especially in the “electronic media” corner that it seems I’ve painted myself into. So if anyone has stumbled upon This Connection commentary, I’d be more than glad to hear about it.