Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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p. v

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

To own the debts accrued in writing this book is delightful. Michael Warner was the first, best reader of many of these pages. Countless felicities of thought and expression are his, and the value of the ex ample he has set for the conduct of life is similarly incalculable. Richard...

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Introduction: Leaving Poetry Behind

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pp. 1-32

Elegies are poems about being left behind. They are poems, too, that are themselves left behind, as literary and even material legacies. Their heritage helps constitute the “work” (both process and artifact) of mourning—a form of psychic labor that is also fundamental...

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1. Legacy and Revision in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Elegy

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pp. 33-79

Until the eighteenth century, the history of American elegy was by and large a function of Puritan resource and resolve. The funeral elegy, adopted from their English counterparts by New England Puritans in the 1640s, was practiced assiduously for almost a century, constituting...

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2. Elegy and the Subject of National Mourning

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pp. 80-107

By 1799, the young nation had already caught dramatic glimpses of itself in the mirror of mourning. From the start of the Revolutionary War to the end of the century, the deaths of soldiers, patriot noncombatants, illustrious citizens, and noncitizen subjects had inspired a wealth...

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3. Taking Care of the Dead: Custodianship and Opposition in Antebellum Elegy

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pp. 108-142

Elegy continued to be a popular and widely practiced genre in nineteenth-century America in part because of its traditional role in helping to sustain the idealizations to which mourning is characteristically devoted. These include the idealization of the...

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4. Elegy's Child: Waldo Emerson and the Price of Generation

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pp. 143-179

Because the practice of elegy is fundamentally devoted to the enshrinement of compensatory memory, and thus to a complaint or grievance against the present, elegists frequently seek to project a future that would transcend elegiac salvos of resentment—a future, in other words,...

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5. Mourning of the Disprized: African Americans and Elegy from Wheatley to Lincoln

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pp. 180-232

As part of the mourning culture of black Americans, elegy was also part of the racialized drama of sorrow and resistance that characterized American culture more generally and that took shape in related genres like the eulogy, the funeral sermon, the spiritual, and even the minstrel...

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6. Retrievements out of the Night: Whitman and the Future of Elegy

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pp. 233-285

On a November evening in 1888, during one of his innumerable visits to Walt Whitman’s Mickle Street home in Camden, New Jersey, Horace Traubel noticed something he had not seen before. “I stopped at the mantelpiece,” he writes,...

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Afterword: Objects

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pp. 286-293

On March 26, 1892, Whitman’s death unleashed waves of sorrow, relief, anxiety, and other forms of libidinal expressivity. His survivors caressed and kissed him with their good-byes. They made casts of his face and hands. They washed his body and prepared it for viewing and for burial....

Notes

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pp. 295-333

Index

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pp. 335-352