'Soliloquies of suffering and consolation': Fiction as elegy and refusal
Tue 23 May 2017, 18:00 - 19:15
- The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH
Professor John Burnside, University of St Andrews
Chaired by: Professor Robert Crawford FBA, University of St Andrews
Susan Stewart has said that in “writing soliloquies of suffering and consolation…elegists have discovered…a powerful means of addressing the tensions between grief's inchoate emotion and social rituals of mourning.” Using work by Graham Swift, Adam Thorpe and Michael Bracewell, I will argue that such elegies have informed one important strand of British fiction over the last thirty years, where the growth of “cultural totalitarianism” (cf. Jonathan Franzen) has engendered, on the one hand, a primal impulse to preserve individual integrity against societal control, and on the other, a profound grief for the consequent loss of communal and ritual life.
About the speaker:
John Burnside’s novels include The Devil’s Footprints (2007), Glister (2008), and A Summer of Drowning (2011). He is also the author of two collections of short stories, three memoirs and several prizewinning poetry collections. His most recent novel, a study of American grief, is Ashland & Vine, (Jonathan Cape, 2017).
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