F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp

Published On


Page Range

pp. 11–62


  • English

Print Length

51 pages

1. Whitman on the Bible

  • F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp (author)
The chapter provides a preliminary brief for Whitman’s familiarity with the Bible. While there is a longstanding consensus among Whitman scholars on this issue, it nevertheless seems appropriate to begin with the “massing of evidence” called for by M. N. Posey. The ensuing survey is somewhat eclectic (e.g., connecting Whitman with known or currently extant bibles) but it focuses in the main on Whitman’s own meta-discourse about the Bible and features an extended look at his late and under-appreciated essay, “The Bible as Poetry” (1883). In particular, I seek to discern what of the sentiments expressed about the Bible in this essay (e.g., Whitman’s awareness of the lack of rhyme in biblical poetry) may be traced back to the germinal period of Leaves’ inception. In the process, I begin identifying aspects of Whitman’s style that may be indebted (to varying degrees) to the Bible (e.g., his preference for lyric). I close the chapter by spotlighting the coincidence of Whitman’s breaking into free verse in 1850 while writing three biblically inflected poems. And though I do not elaborate on this free verse or Whitman’s proclivity for the lyric, that both offer substantial links to the Bible should not go unnoticed. Whitman collages all manner of language material, especially those aspects of form and structure that are not oversaturated with semantic uptake.


F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp

James Lenox Librarian and Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary

F. W. “Chip” Dobbs-Allsopp is the James Lenox Librarian and professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. He holds a B.A. from Furman University (1984), an M.Div. from the Seminary (1987), and a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University (1992). He joined the faculty of the Seminary in 1999 after spending five years teaching at Yale University (1994-99). He loves sailing and poetry and has been known to enjoy a glass of wine or a wee dram of whiskey. His research interests include the historical, philological, and literary study of biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature (with special focus on poetry and Northwest Semitic inscriptions). Dobbs-Allsopp’s most recent book is On Biblical Poetry (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Current projects include a monograph-length study of the poetry of Walt Whitman, provisionally entitled, Divine Style: Walt Whitman and the King James Bible., a critical commentary on the book of Lamentations in the Hermeneia series (co-authored with J. Blake Couey), and The Digital Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: An Image-Based Electronic Edition & Archive.