The International Walt Whitman Week 2013 in Chicago - a Fan Report

By Judith Rauscher

Bamberg participated in the 6th International Walt Whitman Week in Chicago and to sum it up: we had a blast!

In 2007, a group of Whitman enthusiasts from Germany, the US and several other countries met in France, founding the Transnational Walt Whitman Association and inaugurating what was to become a very successful annual event: The International Whitman Week!

After meetings in Germany, France, Italy, Brazil and Poland, this year’s Whitman Week was held in the United States at Northwestern University in Evanston, just north of Chicago. And I was lucky enough to be able to attend as a participant of the seminar.

As a former M.A. and current Ph.D. student at the American Studies department here in Bamberg, I had of course come across Walt Whitman’s poetry in lectures and courses, but I was thrilled to get a chance to learn more his work and discuss it in a seminar with renowned scholars as well as students from all over the world. While a five-day seminar with lectures, discussion groups and translation sessions followed by a two-day conference may not seem like much fun, our week in Evanston was exactly that – both interesting AND fun from the first day to the last.

The most important reason why participants where able to maintain their energy throughout the week was certainly that we simply could not help but be affected by, or rather infected with the Whitman-enthusiasm of everyone else. Another reason for the continuously high spirit was that we had ample opportunity to recharge our batteries during a variety of activities outside the seminar, organized by the NU English department: we saw a Whitman musical and a Whitman-themed art exhibition, went on the famous architecture boat tour on Chicago’s many waterways, attended an open air concert in Millenium Park, cheered for the local team at a baseball game, and ended the week with a big farewell party.

I wish other students from Bamberg had been able to come to Chicago with Christine Gerhardt and myself this year, because I learned so much, met so many wonderful people and had such a great time, and believe that they would have, too. This is also why I am very excited that International Whitman Week is coming to Bamberg in July 2014! So, stay on the lookout for posters later this year and make sure to apply at the end of the winter semester. If you would like to know more about the 2014 Whitman Week in Bamberg, just come talk to me or write me an email. But be warned: Whitmania is rather contagious.