The War Memorial as Elegy

Kirk Savage

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The War Memorial as Elegy

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This article looks at war monuments, which respond to an increasing scholarly interest in the physical artifacts of memorialization. It argues that the apparent homologies of monument and elegy, anti-monument and anti-elegy, turn out to be misleading. The monument Read envisaged as disillusionment, despair, and destruction gave way to a monument of recuperation. Monumental modernism diverged from the literary modernism Ramazani has so beautifully charted. The age-old types of war memorial were spectacular forms designed to assert the moral and physical triumph of the ruler and the state. The passage through the monument is itself a meaningful process, an elegiac journey, culminating in a ritual climax at the centre. It is true that Lin's memorial does not offer the explicit reassurance of everlasting life that Thiepval incorporates into its Great War Stone. The psychological closure apparently offered by the contemporary war memorial is never really complete.

Keywords: war memorial; elegy; war monuments; anti-monument; anti-elegy; monumental modernism; Great War Stone

Article.  6972 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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