Journal Article

SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER? ON THE CONTEMPORARY EULOGY OF JAMES WRIGHT

Gregg Lambert

in Literature and Theology

Volume 14, issue 2, pages 208-234
Published in print June 2000 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online June 2000 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/14.2.208
SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER? ON THE CONTEMPORARY EULOGY OF JAMES WRIGHT

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This article examines how the late-American poet James Wright transforms the traditional poetic and ritual forms of the elegy and the eulogy to address the moral and ethical relationships that comprise modern urban societies. The argument briefly outlines the ethicaland social notions that are implicit in the elegiac mode, and its relationship with the ritual mode of the eulogy, and then demonstrates Wright's adaptation of these forms to contemporary subjects. By examining the subjects that Wright chooses to eulogise—i.e. the city's anonymous and ‘nameless poor’, as well as its outcasts, misfits, criminals, and suicides—the article demonstrates how Wright's elegies reveal an intense ambivalence, even enmity, within a notion of community (or ‘being-in-common’) that is founded by a Christian understanding of ‘participation’ (metaxia).

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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