Journal Article

‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory’: The Cinematic Adaptation of American Poetry

Michael Devine

in Adaptation

Volume 5, issue 1, pages 1-17
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory’: The Cinematic Adaptation of American Poetry

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This essay reconstructs a forgotten crisis in American letters and film: President Theodore Roosevelt's unpopular campaign to make ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ the nation's poem in 1908 and the poem's popular film adaptation in 1911. As the cinematic response to poetry's failure as a national art, the Vitagraph film became a collectivist hymnal for the nation's dream of assimilation. Featured prominently in American poet Vachel Lindsay's pioneering work of film theory, The Art of the Moving Picture (1915), the adaptation effectively reasserted the popular roots of the otherwise genteel ‘Battle Hymn’ poem and by doing so helped to modernize poetry's communal function and the nation's literary tradition.

Keywords: Adaptation; cinema; nationalism; poetry; Vachel Lindsay

Journal Article.  8925 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film ; Television ; Literature

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