9780816648931

American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780816648931

  • ISBN10:

    081664893X

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2007-01-03
  • Publisher: Univ of Minnesota Pr
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Summary

The most widely practiced and read form of verse in America, "elegies are poems about being left behind," writes Max Cavitch. American Elegy is the history of a diverse people's poetic experience of mourning and of mortality's profound challenge to creative living. By telling this history in political, psychological, and aesthetic terms, American Elegy powerfully reconnects the study of early American poetry to the broadest currents of literary and cultural criticism. Cavitch begins by considering eighteenth-century elegists such as Franklin, Bradstreet, Mather, Wheatley, Freneau, and Annis Stockton, highlighting their defiance of boundariesbetween public and private, male and female, rational and sentimentaland demonstrating how closely intertwined the work of mourning and the work of nationalism were in the revolutionary era. He then turns to elegy's adaptations during the market-driven Jacksonian age, including more obliquely elegiac poems like those of William Cullen Bryant and the popular child elegies of Emerson, Lydia Sigourney, and others. Devoting unprecedented attention to the early African-American elegy, Cavitch discusses poems written by free blacks and slaves, as well as white abolitionists, seeing in them the development of an African-American genealogical imagination. In addition to a major new reading of Whitman's great elegy for Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," Cavitch takes up less familiar passages from Whitman as well as Melville's and Lazarus's poems following Lincoln's death. American Elegy offers critical and often poignant insights into the place of mourning in American culture. Cavitch examines literary responses to historical eventssuch as the American Revolution, Native American removal, African-American slavery, and the Civil Warand illuminates the states of loss, hope, desire, and love in American studies today. Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Author Biography

Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments VII
Introduction: Leaving Poetry Behind 1
1. Legacy and Revision in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Elegy 33
2. Elegy and the Subject of National Mourning 80
3. Taking Care of the Dead: Custodianship and Opposition in Antebellum Elegy 108
4. Elegy's Child: Waldo Emerson and the Price of Generation 143
5. Mourning of the Disprized: African Americans and Elegy from Wheatley to Lincoln 180
6. Retrievements out of the Night: Whitman and the Future of Elegy 233
Afterword: Objects 286
Notes 295
Index 335

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