Title: Lost Loss in American Elegiac Poetry: Tracing Inaccessible Grief from Stevens to Post-9/11

Publisher: Lexington Books

Year of Publication: 2020

Book Description:
“We need elegies”—Countee Cullen wrote in 1927. The need for elegies—one of the oldest literary forms—has persisted throughout our history, but the contemporary era highlights the exigencies of a specific type of elegiac poetry, as the sheer scale and distance of losses that confront us today challenge our imagination and affect us in ways that we often fail to recognize. Lost Loss in American Elegiac Poetry: Tracing Inaccessible Grief from Stevens to Post-9/11 examines contemporary literary expressions of losses that are “lost” on us: losses that are ambiguous, forgotten, unacknowledged, repressed, disenfranchised, or otherwise not readily available. Lost Loss in American Elegiac Poetry inquires what it means to “lose” loss and what happens when dispossessory experiences go unacknowledged or become inaccessible. This book analyzes a range of elegiac poetry that does not neatly align with conventional assumptions about the genre, including Wallace Stevens’s “The Owl in the Sarcophagus,” Sylvia Plath’s late poems, Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III, Sharon Olds’s The Dead and the Living, Louise Glück’s Averno, and a selection of post-9/11 poems. What these poems reveal at the intersection of personal and communal mourning are the mechanism of cognitive myth-making involved in denied grief and its social and ethical implications. Engaging with an assortment of philosophical, psychoanalytic, and psychological theories—by D. W. Winnicott, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Judith Butler, Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, among others—Lost Loss in American Elegiac Poetry elucidates how poetry gives shape to the vague despondency of unrecognized loss and what kind of phantomic effects these equivocal grieving experiences may create.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Wallace Stevens’s Elegiac Mode: Creating Fictions of Loss
Chapter 2: Sylvia Plath’s Poems of 1963: Dysthymia and Subterranean Loss
Chapter 3: Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III: Un-losing Lost Loss
Chapter 4: Sharon Olds’s The Dead and the Living: Distant Loss and Ethical Empathy
Chapter 5: Post-9/11 Elegiac Poetry: The Unsaid
Conclusion & Afterword: Lost Loss beyond American Elegiac Poetry
About the Author


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