Cover image for Inventions of farewell : a book of elegies
Inventions of farewell : a book of elegies
Gilbert, Sandra M.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2001]

Physical Description:
478 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:
Format :


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PR1195.E5 I58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PR1195.E5 I58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Inventions of Farewell collects English language poems of mourning from the late Middle Ages to the present. Aesthetic assumptions and poetic styles have altered over the centuries, yet the great and often terrifying themes of time, change, age, and death are timeless. The poems here--from Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, and Edna St. Vincent Millay to Sharon Olds, Stanley Kunitz, and W. S. Merwin--trace the trajectory of grief, but they also illustrate how the deepest sorrow has produced countless poignant and resonant works of art--words that can aid us as we struggle with our own farewells.

Author Notes

A poet, feminist critic, and professor of English at the University of California at Davis, Gilbert received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1968. Her early work addressed canonical male figures, but in the 1970s she began to focus on women writers from a feminist perspective, teaming up with Susan Gubar in what has proven to be a very influential collaboration. In 1979 they published their first joint efforts, a collection of feminist essays on women poets, Shakespeare's Sisters, and The Madwoman in the Attic, an exploration of major nineteenth-century women writers, which has had a major role in defining feminist scholarship. This massive volume takes its title from Jane Eyre's "mad" and monstrous double, Bertha, hidden away in the attic by Jane's would-be lover, Rochester; Gilbert and Gubar see figures like Bertha as resisting patriarchy, subversive surrogates for the docile heroines who populate nineteenth-century fiction by women.

Although Gilbert and Gubar's ideas have been very influential, many critics, particularly poststructuralists, have taken issue with them. For Gilbert and Gubar, a woman writer is by definition angry, and her text will express that anger, albeit in disguised or distorted form. Reading hinges on knowing the sex of the author, rather than on a careful analysis of the text itself and the multivalency of its language. Gilbert and Gubar's work is part of a debate about essentialist and antiessentialist feminist theories, which has addressed issues like "the signature" (the significance of knowledge about the author and authorial intentions) and gendered expression in general.

(Bowker Author Biography) Sandra M. Gilbert's most recent poetry collection is "Blood Pressure". She teaches at the University of California, Davis.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

It seems astonishing that an anthology of elegies like Gilbert's did not already exist. Here are all the great, sonorous lines one might have expected: "How do you like your blue-eyed boy Mister Death" and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" and "I am the grass, I cover all." Here are Milton's "Lycidas" and Shelley's "Adonais," Donne's "Death, be not proud," John Crowe Ransom's "Elegy for Jane, my student thrown from a horse," and A. E. Housman's "With Rue My Heart Is Laden." If this book gathered only all those together with Shakespeare's sonnets and Dickinson's lyrics, it would have been enough. But Gilbert, who herself was widowed young, gathers such contemporary work as searing selections from Without, Donald Hall's book-length elegy for his wife, poet Jane Kenyon; Ruth Stone's hallucinatory yet ordinary memories; and Tess Gallagher's devouring grief for Raymond Carver: "oh-me-of-the-last-of-his-lastness." Like poems of love, elegies articulate universal experience and, so doing, speak to a large readership, which this collection certainly deserves. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Co-author of The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th-Century Literary Imagination and author of the recent Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems 1969-1999, Sandra M. Gilbert has here assembled Inventions of Farewell: A Collection of Elegies. She divides the poems among sections entitled "Watching: Visions of the Dying and the Dead," "`In the Chill of the Body': Viewing the Dead," "`How To Perform Funeral': Ceremonies of Separation" and "Grieving: Lamentation for the Dead," among others, and includes a section of "`Laments for the Makers': Poets Mourning Other Poets": Johnson on Shakespeare, Bishop on Lowell, Sexton on Plath, Hayden on Dunbar, Crane on Melville, and others. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved