The great work: Whitman and the end of death in Chris Adrian’s Gob’s Grief (2002)

O'Riordan, V. ORCID: 0000-0002-3028-1056 (2019) The great work: Whitman and the end of death in Chris Adrian’s Gob’s Grief (2002). In: Whitman 200: International Conference, May 23-24, 2019, University of Bolton. (Unpublished)

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In Walt Whitman’s Civil War poetry, grief and mourning emerge alongside democracy as the poet’s key themes. This paper argues, however, that it is not simply his elucidation of (personal and/or national) grief, or indeed mourning, that comprises Whitman’s key contribution(s) to poetic (and American) discourse, but rather his use of what Leslie Jamison refers to as ‘embodied empathy’ (Jamison, 2007, p.23) as an affective response to that grief, whereby Whitman’s celebrated (and frequently problematized) anti-hierarchical vision of American democracy is manifested through his empathic dissolution of the bodily boundaries between the subjects and (wounded and dying) objects of his work. While Whitman’s racial politics have been (rightly) criticized, his work has, nonetheless, a continuing and significant resonance to twenty-first century readers in the wake of the crisis in American democracy occasioned by the terrorist attacks of September 11th2001 and the U.S. government’s subsequent ideological and legislative response(s). This paper looks at a recent fictional reimagining of both Whitman and his democratic vision – Chris Adrian’s Gob’s Grief(2002) – and argues that Whitman’s work on the Civil War provides Adrian, and his contemporary readers, with an empathic framework for the articulation of a productive response both to individual loss and mass carnage, a framework that has become particularly necessary post-9/11.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bolton School of the Arts > English and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Tracey Gill
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2019 10:59
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2019 10:59

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