In this course we will consider the ‘politics of mourning’ within a Western context and by doing so, asking and re-asking the question: who mourns? While we all ‘mourn’ there are many socio-political elements when it comes to the representations of mourning such as: who are the voices and experiences that are elevated over the voices and experiences that are silenced and/or erased by the ideologies/actualities of colonisation, racism, heteronormativity, and class structures. To ask who mourns is to also how they mourn. This is the work of each elegy.
To contextualise the elegiac form, we will begin with close readings of canonical elegies from the 17th century and gradually move towards contemporary elegiac poetry that subverts elegiac conventions. This approach will allow for a literary-historical account for how the elegiac mode stems from the elegy tradition and allows for a greater understanding of the poetic representation of mourning and a more diverse understanding of elegiac poetry and its possibilities.
Week 1: Inventing elegy
- John Milton, ‘Lycidas’
- Thomas Gray, ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’
- Helen Deutsch, 2012, 'Elegies in Country Churchyards: The Prospect Poem in and around the Eighteenth Century', in Karen Weisman (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy, 2010.
- Lauren Shohet, 2005, ‘Subjects and Objects in “Lycidas”’, Texas Studies in Literature & Language. 2005, vol. 47, no. 2.
Week 2: Surviving affect
- Audre Lorde, ‘A Litany for Survival’
- Anne Sexton, ‘Sylvia's Death’
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, ‘Renascence’
- Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, (excerpts).
- Schenck, Celeste M. 1986, ‘Feminism and Deconstruction: Re-Constructing the Elegy’, in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 13-27.
Week 3: Historical cuts and ecstatic tradition (Guest Lecture by Eva Birch and Gareth Morgan)
- Ariana Reines, A Sand Book, (excerpts)
- C.A. Conrad, ‘Anoint Thyself’
- Jacqueline Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath
Week 4: A poet’s psychoanalysis and the act of writing
- Evelyn Lau, ‘In Search of You in Search of Freud’
- Jack Spicer, ‘Psychoanalysis: An Elegy’
- W.H. Auden, ‘In Memory of Sigmund Freud’
- Sigmund Freud ‘Mourning and Melancholia’
Week 5: Resisting consolation and romanticism
- Dorothy Porter, Wild Surmise, (excerpts)
- Alison Whittaker, ‘a love like Dorothea’s’
- Oodgeroo Noonuccal, ‘No More Boomerang’
- Juliana Schiesari, 1992, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature, Cornell University Press, New York. (Excerpts).
- Anne Carson, 1992], ‘The Gender of Sound’, in Glass, Irony and God, New Directions, New York, pp. 119-142.