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Facing Loss and Death

Narrative and Eventfulness in Lyric Poetry

With contributions of: Britta Goerke, Heilna du Plooy and Stefan Schenk-Haupt
Lyric poetry as a temporal art-form makes pervasive use of narrative elements in organizing the progressive course of the poetic text. This observation justifies the application of the advanced methodology of narratology to the systematic analysis of lyric poems. After a concise presentation of this transgeneric approach to poetry, the study sets out to demonstrate its practical fruitfulness in detailed analyses of a large number of English (and some American) poems from the early modern period to the present. The narratological approach proves particularly suited to focus on the hitherto widely neglected dimension of sequentiality, the dynamic progression of the poetic utterance and its eventful turns, which largely constitute the raison d'être of the poem. To facilitate comparisons, the examples chosen share one special thematic complex, the traumatic experience of severe loss: the death of a beloved person, the imminence of one’s own death, the death of a revered fellow-poet and the loss of a fundamental stabilizing order. The function of the poems can be described as facing the traumatic experience in the poetic medium and employing various coping strategies. The poems thus possess a therapeutic impetus.

Author Information

Peter Hühn, Universität Hamburg, Germany.


"Peter Hühn, renommierter Lyrik- und Narratologiespezialist zugleich, hat mit diesem Band, in Zusammenarbeit mit Britta Goerke, Heilna du Plooy und Stefan Schenk-Haupt, ein konzises Werk vorgelegt, in dem zahlreiche klassische Gedichte der englischsprachigen Literatur ausführlicher behandelt werden. [...] Ein nützliches, anregendes Buch also, das geeignet ist, zu einer genaueren Lektüre von Gedichten beizutragen, unabhängig davon, wie stark man jeweils das narrative Element wirklich machen möchte."Till Kinzel in: Informationsmittel (IFB) : digitales Rezensionsorgan für Bibliothek und Wissenschaft [#5560] http://informationsmittel-fuer-bibliotheken.de/showfile.php?id=9005
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Audience: Literary scholars in English and American studies (also German, Romance, and Slavic studies)