1. Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, 405–6.
2. See, for example, Sacks, The English Elegy; Kay, Melodious Tears;
Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning; Hammond, The American Puritan Elegy;
Spargo, The Ethics of Mourning; Gilbert, Death’s Door; Cavitch, American
Elegy; and Breitwieser, National Melancholy.
3. Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning, xi. In his Poetry of Mourning, Rama-
zani provides the most persuasive reading of modern elegy as melan-
cholic mourning. By employing the very phrase “melancholic mourn-
ing,” Ramazani is careful not to oppose mourning and melancholia,
allowing him to read modern elegy’s “melancholic turn” (10) less as
a break from traditional elegy than as an efflorescence of a tendency
present in elegy from the beginning. My book perhaps comes closest in
its focus to Spargo’s The Ethics of Mourning, but here, too, Spargo’s criti-
cal emphasis is on the melancholic or anti- elegiac—what he calls “a re-
sistant or incomplete mourning” and sees as literature’s greatest form
of ethical protest (13). My own reading of modern elegy suggests that
a refusal of consolation alone is not enough to guarantee ethics, just as
consolation alone is not enough to rule it out.
4. I cite the evocative title of Zeiger’s Beyond Consolation.
5. John B. Vickery deploys the phrase “the elegiac matrix” to describe
the broadening focus of the modern elegy, which increasingly addresses
many different types of losses: lives, loves, families, marriages, civili-
zations, cultures, philosophies, selves. Not all elegies, Vickery rightly
reminds us, respond to the death of a person. See Vickery’s The Modern
Elegiac Temper, especially the introduction.
6. Preminger and Brogan, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry
and Poetics, 322.
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