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The Remembrance: Model Literature not Elegy The genre of elegy, funeral verse written on the occasion of a person's death, was, in a sense, rediscovered during the Elizabethan age in England. There are many reasons for this - among the most prominent, the importance of fame in humanist thinking and the renewed interest in classical forms, the enlarged use of the printing press, the Protestant belief in the importance of good works. The age's fascination with the form is evident in the many sub-categories that flourished: epitaphs [short verses often engraved, or hung, on funeral monuments], pastoral elegies, ubi sunt and de casibus poems, among others. Of the many kinds of funeral verse, one of the forms most often composed during the middle part of the sixteenth century was the personal elegy, a poem based on the rules of composition in classical and contemporary rhetorical manuals.1 This elegy normally circulated in printed broadside or pamphlet rather than in manuscript, indicating that its audience was anonymous and impersonal, and wider than the poet's literary circle of friends. This is a significant shift in rhetorical situation, since, before printing, elegies were either hung on tombs, written in manuscript for circulation within a small, elite audience of literate people, or read aloud in a courtly setting. This changed rhetorical situation of the personal elegy essentially transforms the literary work into a significant subgenre of elegy. Where elegy, in the purest sense of the word, operates to address the inward experience of the bereaved in adjusting to the loss of the deceased, the printed personal elegy - by virtue of its transformed audience - rather addresses the community's experience of adjusting to the loss of a worthy friend and citizen. Consequently, the function of this kind of elegy may be termed more journalistic than aesthetic. W h e n the journalistic emphasis overwhelms the aesthetic, the elegy is no longer "pure", but a hybrid of obituary and elegy, a genre w e may call the "remembrance", after George Whetstone's personal elegy on the death of George Gascoigne (1577).2 ^.L. Bennett, The Principal Rhetorical Conventions in the Renaissance Personal Elegy, Studies in Philology 51, 1954, 107-26 Qiereafter, Bennett, Rhetorical Conventions); F.B. Tromly, The English Funeral Elegy from 1307 to 1614, Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1970, 18 (hereafter, Tromly, Elegy). 2 A selective checklist of remembrances, ranging in date from 1547 to 1603, is appended to this article. All were printed in either broadside or pamphlet, with a few exceptions of verses printed in anthologies (some of these may have been printed separately at an earlier date). In general, I excluded those poems which appear to have been written for a "coterie" rather than a "print" audience (the poems in Tottel's Miscellany, for example), for the poetic purpose seems "exclusive", rather than inclusive. However, I have included those poems which were entered in the Stationers Register, even if they are extant only in manuscript for it is possible that they reached the printing stage. Even with m y (somewhat) arbitrary exclusions, the list contains 118 entries. Using this representative 106 NA. Gutierrez I Because of the remembrance's technical dependence upon elegy, a brief description of the form of elegy is in order. In the most basic sense of the word, "elegy" is a poem written on the occasion of someone's death. Its primary functions, which were codified in classical elegies, are a praise of the life of the deceased, lamentation for his/her passing away, and consolation for the living. Although the elegy was a popular classical form, it was not a genre practised during the Middle Ages. According to Tromly, fewer than thirty funeral elegies (verses longer than 14 lines) were written during 1300 and the 1530's, and two kinds predominated: (1) the Latin planctus, containing a praise of the dead and a prayer for his/her soul, was "written to be sung at the burial services of prominent clergymen and nobles, and...frequently[employed] lyric devices such as short stanzas, short lines, clear phrasing, and refrains";3 (2) the de casibus elegy was a warning by the deceased for the living to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 105-132
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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