How can literary theories of mourning be brought into the 21st Century?

Naomi Banks writes:

I am due to present a paper at the ‘Poetry and Melancholia‘ conference this July in Stirling.  My contribution to this conference is based on a section of my PhD thesis on Northern Irish Elegy.  Elegy can be basically defined as the poetry of mourning, or more poetically, ‘the literary site of collision between life and death’. The conference paper is focused on some poems by Medbh McGuckian which I have classified as pre-emptive elegies, in that they deal with the anticipated deaths of the poet’s parents, written as they were dying.

Sigmund Freud, On Murder Mourning and Melancholia

As far as I know, proleptic grief is not usually covered in literary theories of mourning.  Some of the few articles that I have found on the topic deal with prose fiction rather than poetry.  Most of the work that has been done on elegy is largely informed by psychoanalysis, and often harks back to Freud’s essay ‘Mourning and Melancholia’.  This was written nearly 100 years ago!  I am looking for some input from anyone from a psychological, counselling or sociological background who could bring me up to date with more current theories of grief and mourning, and help me to develop a literary theory of proleptic mourning, which might be used to analyse the poetic genre of elegy. Please leave a comment here or email me directly. Thank you.

1 thought on “How can literary theories of mourning be brought into the 21st Century?

  1. Hello: I read the above with interest, and look forward to reading some of your work, Naomi. My name is Tanis MacDonald, and I am Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have just published a book which may interest people in the Medical Humanities, concerning the relationship between elegy and mourning in women’s elegies for their fathers. In the book, I have discussed Canadian poets, but also suggested that when daughters mourn fathers, there are political dimensions that cannot be ignored. The book is called The Daughter’s Way: Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies, published this year by Wilfrid Laurier University Press. If anyone would like further discussion, or know more about the book, please feel free to contact me by email. Here is the link to the publisher’s webpage: http://www.wlu.ca/press/Catalog/macdonald-daughters.shtml

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