The Canadian Elegy
0.5 Credit

The distinctive tropes and concerns of the Canadian elegy remain largely unexplored in comparison with the critical work on the British elegiac tradition of a stylized poetics of loss that leads to consolation and the American elegiac mode that emphasizes tacit refusal of that consolation. The course will consider the paradoxes of elegiac convention and innovation that have been emerging in Canadian poetry since the early twentieth century, with an emphasis on the fluctuating dynamics of cultural nationalism, gender, race, and history.

Complicated notions of mourning, subjectivity and consolation in contemporary Canadian elegies will inform our study of the elegy's position in Canadian literature from mid twentieth-century to present day, with emphasis on the legitimation of mourning. As the course moves to consider materiality, the local and the global in twenty-first century texts, discussion topics will focus on possibilities for reading the elegiac mode in terms of regional and familial space: as an artefact that both does and undoes the Freudian "work of mourning," as a symptom of postmodern melancholia, and as a genre that calls into question cultural assumptions about gender, sexuality, and language. Various models of mourning will be explored as contributors to the cultural framework of the Canadian elegy, including Sigmund Freud's juxtaposition of mourning and melancholia, W. David Shaw's location of paradox in the elegiac mode, and Jacques Derrida's assertion that mourning is an "unbearable paradox of fidelity."

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