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Gothic Death 1740-1914A Literary History$
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Andrew Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088414

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088414.001.0001

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Touched by the dead: eighteenth-century Gothic Poetics

Touched by the dead: eighteenth-century Gothic Poetics

(p.11) 1 Touched by the dead: eighteenth-century Gothic Poetics
Gothic Death 1740-1914

Andrew Smith

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores transformations between the elegy and a poetic discourse of the elegiac in the mid-eighteenth century. The notion that the dead elicit our sympathy can be found in Adam Smith and Edmund Burke and this empathetic reaching out to death underpins the elegy of the time. By examining Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, Robert Blair’s The Grave (1743), James Hervey’s Meditations amongst the Tombs (1745-7), Thomas Warton’s The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747) and Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard’ (1751), we can see how a discourse about death, dying, and mourning was established. Repeated tensions between natural spirituality and processes of memorialisation appear across these quite diverse texts. How to produce an aesthetic which captures feelings of loss appears at different levels of self-consciousness in these writings which all outline, often competing, artistic positions that the elegiac poet might occupy.

Keywords:   Graveyard poetry, death, melancholy, mourning

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