Thursday Lecture Series

Romantic Postmortems and Elegiac Afterlives

Thursday, The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room

In English letters, the elegy is considered one of the most elevated poetic forms, with a literary history dating back to classical Greece. And yet, the interdisciplinary turn of our moment asks us to reconsider the conventions of elegy through the lens of cross-cultural exchange with medicine. This talk turns to Romantic-era developments in postmortem procedures to reveal their influence on poetic memorials from the 19th century, as autopsy reports gave readers privileged and intimate access into the interiors of the physical bodies of those they mourned. Ultimately, I hope to offer not just a new history of poetry’s most distinguished form, but also a new reading of the surprising ramifications of the history of medicine on Romanticism’s most important memorial poem: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s elegy for Keats, Adonais (1821).