On Friday, May 3 students, scholars, and the community gathered at Stony Brook University to explore and celebrate Walt Whitman’s local and global influence, impact, and legacy. The symposium “Starting from Paumanok: Whitman, Long Island, The World” examined Walt Whitman’s impact on literature, music, and the visual arts. Topics discussed included Whitman’s Poetic Legacy, Whitman’s New York, and Whitman and the Civil War. A selection of rare poetry works from Special Collections, SBU Libraries was on display at the program. The event culminated with a lecture and performance featuring 2018 MacArthur Fellow Matthew Aucoin, composer and writer of the opera “Crossing,” based on Whitman’s Civil War writings. Leading American operatic baritone Rod Gilfry and graduate students from SBU’s Department of Music performed scenes. The opera was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017 and by the Los Angeles Opera in 2018. This lecture-performance was a rare opportunity to hear this critically acclaimed work.
The event was organized by Susan Scheckel (English), Andrew Rimby (Ph.D. student, English), and Kristen Nyitray (Libraries). It was sponsored and supported by a FAHSS grant award, the Run Run Shaw Fund, the University Libraries, Humanities Institute, the Departments of English and Music, and the Office of the Provost.