While immensely popular in the eighteenth century, current critical wisdom regards graveyard poetry as a short-lived fad with little lasting merit. In the first book-length study of this important poetic mode, Eric Parisot suggests, to the contrary, that graveyard poetry is closely connected to the mid-century aesthetic revision of poetics. Graveyard poetry's contribution to this paradigm shift, Parisot argues, stems from changing religious practices and their increasing reliance on printed material to facilitate private devotion by way of affective and subjective response. Coupling this perspective with graveyard poetry’s obsessive preoccupation with death and salvation makes visible its importance as an articulation or negotiation between contemporary religious concerns and emerging aesthetics of poetic practice. Parisot reads the poetry of Robert Blair, Edward Young and Thomas Gray, among others, as a series of poetic experiments that attempt to accommodate changing religious and reading practices and translate religious concerns into parallel reconsiderations of poetic authority, agency, death and afterlife. Making use of an impressive body of religious treatises, sermons and verse that ground his study in a precise historical moment, Parisot shows graveyard poetry's strong ties to seventeenth-century devotional texts, and most importantly, its influential role in the development of late eighteenth-century sentimentalism and Romanticism.
'Parisot is interested in tracing a relationship between the decline of the public and oratorical sermon and the rise of silent reading, first in the form of closet devotion, later in a secularized meditation that increasingly relies on printed material that can be read in private.' Studies in English Literature
Contents: Introduction: re-reading graveyard poetry; Prospects of eternity: the theology of poetic salvation; The problem of religious authority and poetic autonomy; Seeking the daimonic and the divine; The paths of glory: death and poetic ambition; In trembling hope: reading and the sympathetic afterlife; Post-mortem; Bibliography; Index.