Schmidt, Bernard

About the author: Dr. Bernard Schmidt received his PhD in American Literature from the University of Miami, his M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and his B.A. from Temple University. He was a Professor of English at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Caroline from 1984 till 2002 when he retired.

Emergence and Decline of American Literary Personalism. From Whitman to Bowne
2004 0-7734-6370-4
Personalism was a philosophic movement centered in Boston and led by Borden Parker Bowne. His disciples, Albert C. Knudson, Ralph Tyler Flewelling, and Egdar Sheffield Brightman, gave it energetic if not long life; the therapist-philosopher Carl Rogers is its only well-known, modern proponent. The Personalist Forum is the journal for the small, hardy group of scholars who publish in this field. Dr. Bernard Schmidt argues with telling effect that there were literary precursors to the Boston Personalists whom scholars need to study if the movement is to be thoroughly understood. Walt Whitman published his article “Personalism” in The Galaxy in 1868. Along with his Personalistic declarations in Democratic Vistas (1871), it provokes the idea that Whitman was a Personalist who used his philosophy to undergird “Song of Myself.”

The book stresses emergence rather than decline. Whitman and Alcott were important voices in American Personalistic literature, the former speaking through “Song of Myself,” the latter through a clear and well-reasoned dispute with Emerson. Of course, both had other Personalistic pronouncements. So this study emphasizes the impact of Personalism on American literature; this has not been done before. It shows that Alcott had more to say in his letters, journals, and books than Emerson and more modern critics have allowed. Whitman’s reputation has been made, but his Galaxy article “Personalism” reveals an added dimension of his thought. With its cosmic optimism, it shares the direction of Arthur O. Lovejoy’s Great Chain of Being. Let not obscurity diminish the value of American literary Personalism, which comes to us in seminal form from Whitman and the lesser light Alcott.