• Dying Modern: A Meditation on Elegy

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    Pages: 160
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    978-0-8223-5375-1
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  • Acknowledgments ix

    Introduction 1

    1. Dying . . . Words 9

    poetry 10

    consolation 12

    defiance 20

    banality 24

    newness 31

    lastness 35

    2. Reviving . . . Corpses 44

    comic 46

    religious 50

    political 57

    historical 61

    literary 67

    poetic 73

    3. Surviving . . . Lovers 78

    loving 82

    waiting 86

    leaving 90

    refusing 95

    existing 98

    surviving 102

    Conclusion 107

    Notes 113

    Bibliography 131

    Index 141

    Copyright Acknowledgments 149
  • “[Fuss] approaches variations on the form of elegy with such complexity and acumen, and provides much insight into the complexities of our relation to death and the enigma of our simultaneous proximity and avoidance. These are things, after all, about which it can be almost impossible to talk.”

    “[An] elegant meditation. . . . Even Fuss admits that she is surprised that ‘her little book on elegy . . . [which] I thought was about dyig quietly evolved into a book about surviving. It is a pleasure to be surprised alongside her.”

    “This book is an erudite, beautifully written study of them. If you’re a lover of Emily Dickinson’s work or that of Randall Jarrell, Elizabeth Bishop, or Richard Wilbur, you will want to read this book. If you teach literary criticism or simply love poetry, you will want to read Fuss’s book. Superb book.”

    “In a luminous, beautifully considered study of the modern elegy, Fuss (Princeton) demonstrates the ways that poets have creatively imagined modes of talking about the dead...Highly recommended.”

    “[Fuss] argues persuasively for the continued value of the consolatory elegy and examines “the ethical dimentions of the modern elegy.”... [A] concise, insightful, meditative book.”

    "An exceptionally lively, often glitteringly witty essay on the vagaries, contents, and discontents of nineteenth- and twentieth-century elegy, a genrewhose fate, in England and America, has been radically disrupted and even, sometimes, deformed by the cultural fate of modern death itself." 

    Reviews

  • “[Fuss] approaches variations on the form of elegy with such complexity and acumen, and provides much insight into the complexities of our relation to death and the enigma of our simultaneous proximity and avoidance. These are things, after all, about which it can be almost impossible to talk.”

    “[An] elegant meditation. . . . Even Fuss admits that she is surprised that ‘her little book on elegy . . . [which] I thought was about dyig quietly evolved into a book about surviving. It is a pleasure to be surprised alongside her.”

    “This book is an erudite, beautifully written study of them. If you’re a lover of Emily Dickinson’s work or that of Randall Jarrell, Elizabeth Bishop, or Richard Wilbur, you will want to read this book. If you teach literary criticism or simply love poetry, you will want to read Fuss’s book. Superb book.”

    “In a luminous, beautifully considered study of the modern elegy, Fuss (Princeton) demonstrates the ways that poets have creatively imagined modes of talking about the dead...Highly recommended.”

    “[Fuss] argues persuasively for the continued value of the consolatory elegy and examines “the ethical dimentions of the modern elegy.”... [A] concise, insightful, meditative book.”

    "An exceptionally lively, often glitteringly witty essay on the vagaries, contents, and discontents of nineteenth- and twentieth-century elegy, a genrewhose fate, in England and America, has been radically disrupted and even, sometimes, deformed by the cultural fate of modern death itself." 

  • "Dying Modern is terrific. To have achieved so much in such a short, brisk, and eminently readable book; to have recovered such fascinating subgenres and thought through their interrelations; to have returned to the well-worn terrain of the elegy and come up with fresh insights and inventive readings—these are remarkable accomplishments." — Jahan Ramazani, author of, Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney

    "Celebrating poetry's power to bring anything, even death, to life, Diana Fuss's Dying Modern reanimates the elegy for our time. Bringing out the ethical call that echoes throughout the form, her voice becomes the perfect guide to the vanishing voices that elegy creates, preserves, and displaces at once. After reading this wonderful book you'll agree: death never had it so good." — Lee Edelman, author of, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

    "Diana Fuss's exceptional meditative essay, Dying Modern, is a subtle Keatsian inquiry into the irresolvable, and therefore generative, tensions between genre and mode, and between historical contingency and the constancy of ethical commitments." — Max Cavitch, author of, American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman

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  • Description

    In Dying Modern, one of our foremost literary critics inspires new ways to read, write, and talk about poetry. Diana Fuss does so by identifying three distinct but largely unrecognized voices within the well-studied genre of the elegy: the dying voice, the reviving voice, and the surviving voice. Through her deft readings of modern poetry, Fuss unveils the dramatic within the elegiac: the dying diva who relishes a great deathbed scene, the speaking corpse who fancies a good haunting, and the departing lover who delights in a dramatic exit.

    Focusing primarily on American and British poetry written during the past two centuries, Fuss maintains that poetry can still offer genuine ethical compensation, even for the deep wounds and shocking banalities of modern death. As dying, loss, and grief become ever more thoroughly obscured from public view, the dead start chattering away in verse. Through bold, original interpretations of little-known works, as well as canonical poems by writers such as Emily Dickinson, Randall Jarrell, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wright, and Sylvia Plath, Fuss explores modern poetry's fascination with pre- and postmortem speech, pondering the literary desire to make death speak in the face of its cultural silencing.

    About The Author(s)

    Diana Fuss is Louis W. Fairchild '24 Professor of English at Princeton University. She is the author of The Sense of an Interior: Four Writers and the Rooms that Shaped Them, winner of the James Russell Lowell Prize; Identification Papers; and Essentially Speaking. She is the editor of Human, All Too Human; Pink Freud; and Inside/Out.

Fall 2017
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