Romantic Elegiac Hybridity

Stuart Curran

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Romantic Elegiac Hybridity

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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This article reports that the elegy in the Romantic period ‘is seldom the expression of grief per se’. It also outlines the march of elegy through the period, beginning with Anna Seward's epic elegies, to Charlotte Smith's highlighting of affect and psychological realism, to William Wordsworth's indebtedness to Smith's influence. Seward's epic elegies introduce the tradition of what Anne K. Mellor has aptly called ‘Mothers of the Nation’. Smith's Elegiac Sonnets map existence itself as something recessive, predetermined according to a calculus of loss. If Smith and Wordsworth employ the elegiac to probe psychological resources and vulnerabilities, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Shelley deliberately cast their poems as statements with every bit of the public resonance with which Seward invested her encomia to cultural icons.

Keywords: Romantic period; elegy; grief; Anna Seward; Charlotte Smith; William Wordsworth; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Percy Shelley

Article.  6208 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (19th Century)

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