Mourning Modernity

Thomas Pfau

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Mourning Modernity

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies


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This article looks at literary theory. It locates that problematic integral in modernity's dramatically altered experience and conception of time. While the centrality of time to modern theory is hardly in doubt, an acutely temporal dimension also shapes elegiac form and its broader aesthetic significance, in particular at the turn from Classicism to Romanticism. It then views the elegiac as the defining characteristic of aesthetic production in modernity. Mdernity's method-based ‘world-picture’ as it emerges from the canonical writings of Bacon, Descartes, and Leibniz for the most part understands time as merely ‘lapsing’ and incessantly receding into a ‘past’ now conceived as history. In Germany, the rise of modern aesthetics and literary theory correlates with a sustained revaluation of antiquity. The true object of ‘mourning’ is also addressed.

Keywords: literary theory; mourning; modernity; Classicism; Romanticism; classical antiquity; elegiac form; modern aesthetics

Article.  9304 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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