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Title: English funerary elegies, 1620-1650
Author: Brady, A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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Though highly conventional, the funerary elegy provides poets - from the professional laureate to the functionally literate - with an opportunity to challenge political and religious leadership, patronage networks, and literary values. I reconstruct the elegy’s genealogy in classical and humanist rhetoric in Chapter 1, and associate its observance of rhetorical conventions with the conventions that govern consolation and Christian grief. I then consider how elegy participates in the symbolic and material economy of mortuary ritual, especially the heraldic funeral. The ritual context outlined in Chapter 2 suggests that elegies are primarily conservative, concerned with maintaining the social hierarchies disrupted by death. However, a selection of elegies commemorating executions confirms elegy’s equally radical potential. The felons and traitors examined in Chapter 3 derive charismatic authority from their ordeal, which they then use to contrast their own verity with that of the temporal authority that executes them. Meanwhile, their elegists reinterpret these spectacular displays of state power to the victim’s benefit, posing questions not only about that power, but about the political and judicial functions of language itself. Similarly agnostic elements are present in the critical elegies for other poets discussed in Chapter 4, which manage questions of influence, value and legitimacy especially through metaphors of coinage and sexual possession. Chapter 5 concludes with ‘private’ elegies, written mostly by women and published in manuscript for members of their own families. Through prosody, these bereaved poets enact their desire to re-embody the deceased, and to extend the process of death through the poetic management of time. In conclusion, I use historical analysis of elegiac convention and context to suggest that the genre excludes the contests as much as it celebrates and idealizes, both the dead and its own readership.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available