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Poetry at Death’s Door

Poetry at Death’s Door

(p.235) Chapter Six Poetry at Death’s Door
Loving Literature
Deidre Shauna Lynch
University of Chicago Press

To contextualize current laments over the death of literature and to explore literary studies’ longstanding investment in mournful feelings and tales of loss, this chapter returns to the canon-making projects treated in earlier chapters and explores their emotional fall-out. Those projects effectually made literature into a cultural space of posthumousness; they installed the barrier of death between dead poets and living readers. The chapter engages next with James Boswell’s Life of Johnson and Thomas De Quincey’s reminiscences of William Wordsworth, and considers these biographers’ proclivity for representing the authors who are their subjects not simply as their intimates but also as ghostly inhabitants of the afterlife. It concludes with Victorian editions of the romantic poets that ornamented the poetry with photographic illustrations that resemble the spirit photographs of the later nineteenth century. Identified as the most up-to-date technology, photography also serves within this volume to intimate poetry’s obsolescence and imminent extinction.

Keywords:   James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Thomas De Quincey, William Wordsworth, ghost, mourning, photography, death

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