Elegy Essay

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What is this? In a simple sense it's a text about a dead person, or, in this case, persons. Before we look at this particular elegy I want us to think about memorial writing in general. It's clearly quite an important part of a social organisation-the way we control and manage death. And it's also an insight into the way we think about individuals in a wide variety of social contexts:

* Grand memorial elegies

* Small personal ones we place in newspapers, little poems

* Obituaries

* Letters of consolation in which the writer sets down memories of the dead person

* Epitaphs on headstones and plaques

We can recognise in all of these there is no direct
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It would accept that language always is founded on absence. This is what Derrida thinks about language in general:

… speech does not restore the immediate presence of the signified content … all those goings-forth effectively exile this life of self-presence in signification. We know that signification … is the process of death at work in signs. (J. Derrida, "Speech and Phenomena")


1] First published, anonymously, 1751, under the title "An Elegy wrote in a Country Churchyard." The date of composition of the Elegy, apart from the concluding stanzas, cannot be exactly determined. The sole authority for the frequently repeated statement that Gray began the poem in 1742 is Mason's conjecture in the memoir prefixed to his edition of The Poems of Mr. Gray, 1775. The Elegy was concluded at Stoke Poges in June, 1750. (See letter to Walpole, June 12, 1750.) The churchyard as described by Gray is typical rather than particular; of the five disputed "originals" Stoke Poges bears the least resemblance to the graveyard in the Elegy. Five candidate churchyards for Gray's setting include Stoke Poges(unlikely), Upton (near Slough), Grantchester and Madingley (near Cambridge), and Thanington (near Canterbury), but the features might as readily be non-specific. curfew: originally rung at eight o'clock as a

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