Washington Area Romanticist Group

April 12, 2014
10:00 - 1:00 PM
3132 Tawes Hall

4.12.14: McGrath

The Washington Area Romanticists Group is delighted to have as its Sp14 speaker Brian McGrath from Clemson University. The F11 session will be held on 10AM Saturday at the University of Maryland on April. 12 in Tawes 3132. Refreshments, as always, will be provided. All are welcome to attend. A description of his talk is below.

“Voters were Pro-Dead”: Political Afterlives of Romanticism

With surprising frequency the dead win US elections. In fact, one of the best ways to win a US election is to die during the campaign. A number of examples exist, including most famously Mel Carnahan’s posthumous defeat of John Ashcroft in 2000 for a Missouri Senate seat. In “’Voters were Pro-Dead’: Political Afterlives of Romanticism,” I explore how posthumous election of the dead relies on the same lyric tropes, like prosopopoeia, that romantic poets know well. Voters cast their vote and so throw their voice to the dead in much the same way Shelley throws his voice in “The Cloud,” by granting a cloud the ability to speak, or Keats throws his voice in the concluding lines to “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” How does the romantic preoccupation with animating figures of lyric address, like prosopopoeia, help us to think the election of the dead in contemporary US politics? What does the frequent election of the dead tell us about modern forms of democracy and our romantic inheritance?

Brian McGrath is Associate Professor of English at Clemson University, where he specializes in British and European Romanticism, Poetry and Poetics, and Literary, Aesthetic, and Rhetorical Theory. He is the author of The Poetics of Unremembered Acts: Reading, Lyric, Pedagogy (Northwestern University Press, 2013).