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Title: Romantic posthumous life writing : inter-stitching genres and forms of mourning and commemoration
Author: Chiou, Tim Yi-Chang
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 3346
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Contemporary scholarship has seen increasing interest in the study of elegy. The present work attempts to elevate and expand discussions of death and survival beyond the ambit of elegy to a more genre-inclusive and ethically sensitive survey of Romantic posthumous life writings. Combining an ethic of remembrance founded on mutual fulfilment and reciprocal care with the Romantic tendency to hybridise different genres of mourning and commemoration, the study re- conceives 'posthumous life' as the 'inexhaustible' product of endless collaboration between the dead, the dying and the living. This thesis looks to the philosophical meditations of Francis Bacon, John Locke and Emmanuel Levinas for an ethical framework of human protection, fulfilment and preservation. In an effort to locate the origin of posthumous life writing, the first chapter examines the philosophical context in which different genres and media of commemoration emerged in the eighteenth century. Accordingly, it will commence with a survey of Enlightenment attitudes toward posthumous sympathy and the threat of death. The second part of the chapter turns to the tangled histories of epitaph, biography, portraiture, sepulchre and elegy in the writings of Samuel Johnson, Henry Kett, Vicesimus Knox, William Godwin and William Wordsworth. The Romantic culture of mourning and commemoration inherits the intellectual and generic legacies of the Enlightenment. Hence, Chapter Two will try to uncover the complex generic and formal crossovers between epitaph, extempore, effusion, elegy and biography in Wordsworth's 'Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg' (1835-7) and his 'Epitaph' (1835-7) for Charles Lamb. However, the chapter also recognises the ethical repercussions of Wordsworth's inadequate, even mortifying, treatment of a fellow woman writer in his otherwise successful expression of ethical remembrance. To address the problem of gender in Romantic memorialisation, Chapter Three will take a close look at Letitia Elizabeth Landon' s reply to Wordsworth's incompetent defence of Felicia Hemans. Mediating the ambitions and anxieties of her subject, as well as her public image and private pain, 'Felicia Hemans' (1838) is an audacious composite of autograph, epitaph, elegy, corrective biography and visual portraiture. The two closing chapters respond to Thomas Carlyle's outspoken confidence in 'Portraits and Letters' as indispensable aids to biographies. Chapter Four identifies a tentative connection between the aesthetic of visual portraiture and the ethic of life writing. To demonstrate the convergence of both artistic and humane principles, this cross-media analysis will first evaluate Sir Joshua Reynolds's memoirs of his deceased friends. Then, it will compare Wordsworth's and Hemans's verse reflections on the commemorative power and limitation of iconography. The last chapter assesses the role of private correspondence in the continuation of familiar relation and reciprocal support. Landon's dramatic enactment of a 'feminine Robinson Crusoe' in her letters from Africa urges the unbroken offering of service and remembrance to a fallen friend through posthumous correspondence. The concluding section will consider the ethical implications for the belated memorials and services furnished by friends and colleagues in the wake of her death.
Supervisor: Newlyn, Lucy ; Stafford, Fiona Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Romanticism ; eighteenth century ; genre study ; death study ; moral philosophy ; mourning and commemoration ; posthumous writing ; women's writing ; elegy ; epitaph ; effusion ; biography ; visual portraiture ; autography ; funerary architecture ; epistolary writing ; Francis Bacon ; John Locke ; Abraham Tucker ; Samuel Johnson ; William Godwin ; William Wordsworth ; William Hazlitt ; Benjamin R. Haydon ; Felicia Hemans ; Letitia Elizabeth Landon