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Abstracts MLA 2012 | Seattle New Approaches to Civil War Poetry: Dickinson, Whitman, Melville CO-CHAIR: JOSEPH FRUSCIONE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY O rganized and moderated by Joseph Fruscione (Melville Society), Tyler Hoffman (Rutgers University, Camden), and Elizabeth Petrino (Fairfield University), this collaborative panel brought together five scholar/teachers at various stages of their careers to discuss the Civil War– era poetry of Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson. Each panelist gave a short, focused talk that sparked a lively discussion. This was the Melville Society’s second collaborative panel for MLA, and it was successful and engaging (with 54 audience members). In part, this panel was designed as a preview for the June 2013 Melville International Conference, “Melville and Whitman in Washington: The Civil War Years and After.” Our goal for the roundtable was to examine these authors’ different types of poetry, as well as to investigate the growing interest in parsing the aesthetic, political, and formal responses of these three innovative responses to the Civil War. The panelists showed a strong awareness of recent scholarship and of useful new directions of scholarly work on these writers and their era. Each, in his or her own way, helped include Melville in current critical conversations about nineteenthcentury American poetry. Cristanne Miller SUNY Buffalo D ickinson, Whitman, and Melville all write varieties of a highly popular genre of war poetry: the nature poem. Dickinson describes nature itself as bloody and conveys the Civil War’s progress through its c  2012 The Melville Society and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 94 L E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S E X T R A C T S seasons. Many of her poems on the War, which draw on her reading in popular periodicals, use either the autumn or spring to represent bloodiness or the promise of eventual peace, respectively. All three of these poets are indebted to this genre of war poetry for some of their own most powerful war-time verse. Each manipulates the genre in ways characteristic of her or his general response to the war, and in ways that reveal the overlap of and/or conflict between war and nature. Jill Spivey Cornell University T he understudied epitaphic poems in Melville’s Battle-Pieces can be seen through the lens of a national effort undertaken at the time of the book’s composition to organize systematically America’s national cemeteries. “Verses Inscriptive and Memorial” and “An Uninscribed Monument ” challenge the material paradigm on which the epitaph is predicated— the relationship between monument, inscription, and reader—to question the basic fiction on which the epitaph rests: that the inscription can stand in for the dead body. As such, Melville reflects the national debate surrounding the proper interment of the hundreds of thousands of dead bodies resulting from the war. The inscriptive verses of Battle-Pieces reformulate their genre by interrupting the traditional relations invoked by the epitaph to suggest the horrors of a war without meaning, a body without a name, a pronoun without a referent. Monica Pelaez St. Cloud State University T he impact of war makes itself felt within the body of Dickinson’s poems as much as it did in the bodies of the dead and in the body politic, and the formal “wounds” in her poetics share significant commonalities with other responses to the crisis across genres. A question posed in one of Dickinson’s poems on loss, addressed to what is presumably a battlescarred soldier, is integral to our understanding of her response to war: “How many Bullets bearest?” (Franklin 136). Dickinson undertakes a calculation of injuries that reveals the psychological “bullet marks” of war by representing the formal traces of these wounds through an unusually erratic meter. The poem’s irregular rhythm and unanswered queries convey a sense of unreliability that inflicts the additional wound of doubt concerning whether the dead soldier will find redemption. This poem, like others, registers the impact of A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 94-100
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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