Modernism and Mourning by ProQuest


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      Patricia Rae, ed. Modernism and Mourning. Lewisburg:
                             Bucknell UP, 2007. 310 pp. $55.00.

e cover of Modernism and Mourning features a photograph of what is
perhaps the most famous piece of Canadian commemorative art, the Vimy
Memorial. e memorial is often interpreted as an example of modernist
innovation, but this reading overlooks the extent to which it also draws
upon an older vocabulary of mourning: the figure of Canada Bereft who
stands beneath the soaring abstraction of the monument’s twin columns
resembles the kinds of statues of weeping women commonly found in
Victorian cemeteries. Julia McArthur’s photograph, while of a different
mourning figure, nonetheless foregrounds this contradiction in a way that
nicely introduces this essay collection’s focus on mourning as a site that
complicates the persistent narrative of modernism as a clean break with
the past and interrogates the binaries (new/old, high art/popular culture,
intellect/emotion) that have typically underwritten high modernist self-
    Its Canadian cover art notwithstanding, most of the essays in this
book deal with British or American texts and contexts. An exception
is Eric Reinholtz’s discussion of death in the poetry of Federico Garcia
Lorca as a topic that illuminates the Spanish poet’s complex relationship
to Anglo-American modernism. Another is Jahan Ramazani’s afterword,
which describes how his readings of American, English, and Irish elegies
in his book Poetry of Mourning () were informed by his grief over the
execution of a beloved cousin in Iran in . Rae’s book clearly acknowl-
edges the importance of Poetry of Mourning as an essential starting point
for any subsequent discussion of twentieth-century elegiac writing, but
the essays collected here move beyond Ramazani’s conclusions to address
more recent developments in mourning theory. Rae’s introduction con-
textualizes these developments, including recent work by Jacques Derrida,
Judith Butler, and R. Clifton Spargo, by providing a cogent overview of the
body of twentieth-century writings on mourning and melancholia, beg
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