The University of Southampton
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Death by Poetry

Please note: we are sorry but this talk is temporarily unavailable.




The place you are most likely to hear a poem read out loud is at a funeral or memorial service. When everyday language fails us, we turn to the poetic elegy. Yet while the words of these poems comfort us, they can ask difficult questions: why have I survived? why I am a elegising this death over another? am I paying tribute to the dead or to my own poetic talent? This talk will chart the history of the poetic elegy and explore its many contradictions, from the pastoral odes of ancient Greece to graveside oratories in Hollywood films.

Why is this important?

Grief is private, but mourning is decidedly public. How we mark death and how we remember the dead holds up a mirror to society, and an understanding of how elegy has changed over time can prompt further reflections. The media often tells us how we should respond to a ‘public’ death – whether it’s a soldier in Afghanistan, a holiday-maker carried away in a flood, or a popular singer who has overdosed. This talk will help prove a wider context for these events.

Key descriptors

Elegy; poetry; commemoration

Year groups

Years 9, 10, 11


Related Staff Member

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