Date of Completion


Embargo Period



British Literature, Poetics, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Wordsworth, Hallam, Tennyson, Arnold, Hardy, Elegy

Major Advisor

Charles Mahoney

Associate Advisor

Penelope Pelizzon

Associate Advisor

Sarah Winter

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


National Elegy examines the development of the elegy over the course of the nineteenth century in Britain. It starts with William Wordsworth’s Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty, begun as “little political essays” in 1802, and concludes with Thomas Hardy’s “Apology,” published in 1923. Wordsworth’s sonnets mark the inauguration of a history of the elegy as a form of public engagement. This public engagement occurs directly, in the way that Wordsworth treats the Napoleonic Wars, in the way that Alfred, Lord Tennyson treats new theories of evolution, and in the way that Matthew Arnold engages with the rise of the middle class. It also occurs aesthetically, in the ways that Arnold and Hallam especially reconsider the role of poetry in public discourse. At stake for these poets (and for this project) is an understanding of how poetry, and the elegy specifically, can function as a simultaneously public and private medium. This history is also a narrative of poetic development as poets in successive chapters respond to previous poets directly, formally, and allusively. The dissertation’s project is to consider the ways in which the elegy, as a genre, became a significant mode of public address during the nineteenth century.

Available for download on Sunday, May 26, 2030