Writing with an iron pen : gender and genre in early American elegy

Delacroix, Julia Penn
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In my dissertation, "Writing with an Iron Pen: Gender and Genre in Early American Elegy," I show how the work of early American women poets engages the same generic questions about the process and use of consolation as modern anti-elegies. The first half of the dissertation focuses on poems written by one of America's earliest poets. In chapters one and two I look to the elegies of Anne Bradstreet to show how, from the first book of poems published by an American colonist, women poets have highlighted the limits of the consolatory elegy when either elegist or elegized was not a valued male member of the community. In chapters three and four, I turn to the Age of Revolutions and eighteenth-century poets Hannah Griffitts and Phillis Wheatley. Their elegies, I argue, extend and expand grief even as they refuse the sympathetic identifications that, in contemporary poems, offer opportunities for demonstrations of sympathy key to the earliest formations of American national identity. Ultimately, I suggest, early American women's poetry offers another location from which to contest the problems of affect, power, identity, and community posed by the conventional elegy.