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Arranging Grief

Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-Century America

Dana Luciano

Publication Year: 2007

2008 Winner, MLA First Book Prize

Charting the proliferation of forms of mourning and memorial across a century increasingly concerned with their historical and temporal significance, Arranging Grief offers an innovative new view of the aesthetic, social, and political implications of emotion. Dana Luciano argues that the cultural plotting of grief provides a distinctive insight into the nineteenth-century American temporal imaginary, since grief both underwrote the social arrangements that supported the nation’s standard chronologies and sponsored other ways of advancing history.

Nineteenth-century appeals to grief, as Luciano demonstrates, diffused modes of "sacred time" across both religious and ostensibly secular frameworks, at once authorizing and unsettling established schemes of connection to the past and the future. Examining mourning manuals, sermons, memorial tracts, poetry, and fiction by Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Apess, James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Susan Warner, Harriet E. Wilson, Herman Melville, Frances E. W. Harper, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Luciano illustrates the ways that grief coupled the affective body to time. Drawing on formalist, Foucauldian, and psychoanalytic criticism, Arranging Grief shows how literary engagements with grief put forth ways of challenging deep-seated cultural assumptions about history, progress, bodies, and behaviors.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

For a long time now, I’ve looked forward to this ritual of looking backward; of the many pleasures that writing this book generated, the opportunity to reflect on my good fortune in having known so many wise, generous, and warm people is matchless. To begin with, I thank ...

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Introduction: Tracking the Tear

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pp. 1-24

Most everyone who lived through the Seventies in the United States can recollect the image of the solitary crying Indian from the Keep America Beautiful public-service announcement that debuted on Earth Day in 1971. In the sixty-second spot, the lonely figure, played by longtime screen Indian “Iron Eyes” Cody, ...

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1 Moments More Concentrated than Hours: Grief and the Textures of Time

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pp. 25-68

“I cannot be serious!” John Adams announced in a March 2, 1816, letter to Thomas Jefferson. “I am about to write You, the most frivolous letter, you ever read.”1 Inspired by recollections of his remarkable era prompted by Baron von Grimm’s Correspondance Litteraire, Philosophique et Critique, Adams wondered ...

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2 Evocations: The Romance of Indian Lament

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pp. 69-118

In the final scene of The Pioneers (1823), the first novel in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking series, the white frontiersman Natty Bumppo visits the grave of his longtime companion, the Mohican sachem Chingachgook. Gazing at the images decorating the stone—a pipe and a tomahawk—Natty grudgingly ...

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3 Securing Time: Maternal Melancholia and Sentimental Domesticity

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pp. 119-168

We began to see, in the preceding chapter, the way the new nation’s desire for deep pastness, for a collective origin in a time before time, articulated itself alongside and against the problem of arranging familial succession, setting a family form historically organized by bloodline against economic development ...

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4 Slavery’s Ruins and the Countermonumental Impulse

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pp. 169-214

What kind of a difference might the time of mourning make to national history? Frederick Douglass’s deployment of the rhetoric of lamentation, in a speech delivered in Rochester, New York, now known as “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” provides an unexpected answer to this question. ...

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5 Representative Mournfulness: Nation and Race in the Time of Lincoln

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pp. 215-260

In 1878, two years after the publication of Whitman’s Memoranda during the War, the poet’s friend John Burroughs wrote to him from New York, inviting him to give a talk on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death. Though poor health prevented Whitman from carrying out the plan that year, on April 14, 1879, he managed ...

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Coda: Everyday Grief

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pp. 261-268

Talking with others about this project over the past few years, I have been struck by the persistent repetition of one particular question: whether I planned to include any discussion of the events of September 11, 2001. The query in itself was not what stood out for me; cultural critics, after all, ordinarily feel ...


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pp. 269-320

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 321-338


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pp. 339-344

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About the Author

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p. 345

Dana Luciano is an assistant professor teaching sexuality and gender studies and nineteenth-century American literature in the English department at Georgetown University. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1999. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814753408
E-ISBN-10: 081475340X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814752227
Print-ISBN-10: 0814752225

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 194367542
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Arranging Grief

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Time in literature.
  • Sentimentalism in literature.
  • Grief -- Philosophy.
  • Grief -- Political aspects.
  • Grief in literature.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
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