Whitman and Stevenson: singing the nation from Scotland to Samoa via Ohio and Hawai'i

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the role of song in the intermingled reception of Whitman’s and Robert Louis Stevenson’s work. The first section introduces Stevenson’s part in disseminating Whitman’s work in Polynesia, discussing Stevenson’s writings on Polynesian song and his friendships with Hawai’ian musicians King David Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani with whom he shared an interest in Whitman. It suggests the importance of song to their understandings of cultural authority and challenges to colonial influence. The second section considers several composers – including Ralph Vaughan Williams and Ernst Bacon – who set work by both Whitman and Stevenson, focusing particularly on James H. Rogers’ song cycle In Memoriam (1919). It considers the ways in which relationship between the two writers was constructed by these composers and their critics and explores the role of anthologising – whether in poetry anthologies or song cycles – in constructions of national identity and exoticism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSong beyond the nation
Subtitle of host publicationtranslation, transnationalism and performance
EditorsPhilip Ross Bullock, Laura Tunbridge
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherThe British Academy
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780191953859
ISBN (Print)9780197267196
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of the British Academy


  • Walt Whitman
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Polynesia
  • Song cycles
  • James Hotchkiss Rogers
  • Sāmoa
  • Hawai’i
  • Colonial history


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