New World Frontiers

Jeffrey Hammond

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

New World Frontiers

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This article reports that for some American Puritans, the plain-style sermon became a model for elegy, and theological didacticism became its central focus. Still, it is the funeral elegy that is most closely associated with the American Puritans who, like their British predecessors, also appropriated its emotional valence for political positioning; the legitimacy of Cromwell's rule, for example, was a common theme. The writing of elegies flourished during the English Renaissance with the rise of literacy, printing, and humanistic individualism. The wages of sin encompassed not just death, but the ordinary human response to death. The presumed salvation of the deceased had a decisive effect on elegiac portraiture. In the Puritan view, by diminishing the distance between private contemplation and public reaffirmation, elegy absorbed individual mourners into a community capable not only of producing souls worthy of heaven, but of properly marking their translation there.

Keywords: American Puritans; elegy; Cromwell's rule; English Renaissance; death

Article.  8775 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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