The Ethics of Mourning
Grief and Responsibility in Elegiac Literature
By (author) R.Clifton Spargo
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Ethics of Mourning by R.Clifton Spargo
Book DescriptionThe Ethics of Mourning dramatically shifts the critical discussion of the lyric elegy from psychological economy to ethical responsibility. Beginning from a reevaluation of famously inconsolable mourners such as Niobe and Hamlet, R. Clifton Spargo discerns the tendency of all grief to depend at least temporarily upon the refusal of consolation. By disrupting the traditional social and psychological functions of grief, resistant mourners transform mourning into a profoundly ethical act. Spargo finds such examples of ethical mourning in opposition to socially acceptable expressions of grief throughout the English and American elegiac tradition. Drawing on the work of Paul Ricoeur, Bernard Williams, and Emmanuel Levinas, his book explores the ethical dimensions of anti-consolatory grief through astute readings of a wide range of texts-including treatments of Hamlet, Milton, and Renaissance elegists, extended readings of Dickinson, Shelley, and Hardy, and final chapters on American Holocaust elegies by Sylvia Plath and Randall Jarrell. Spargo argues that, to the extent that elegies are melancholic, to the extent that they resist the history of consolation and the strategies of commemoration implicit in elegiac conventions, they make an extraordinary ethical demand on us, asking that we remain in relationship to the other, even past the point of all usefulness. In the wake of the atrocities of the twentieth century, particularly the Holocaust, Spargo finds the crisis in the project of commemoration to be an event already inscribed with ethical meaning. He argues for the particular capacity of literature to undertake an imaginative risk on behalf of another that seems the very ground of ethics itself.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780801879777
(229mm x 152mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publish Date: 26-Nov-2004
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author R.Clifton Spargo
Beautiful Fools, Paperback (May 2014)
The end of the famous and destructive marriage between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, brought to life
Vigilant Memory, Hardback (October 2006)» View all books by R.Clifton Spargo
In this original and magisterial study, Spargo uses Levinas's work to approach our understanding of the suffering and death of others, and in doing so reintroduces an essential ethical element to the reading of literature, culture, and everyday life.
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Author Biography - R.Clifton Spargo
R. Clifton Spargo has taught American literature at Marquette University and creative writing at Yale University. In 2000-2001 he was the Pearl Resnick Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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