In Memoriam : On Bereavement and the Work of Mourning
In Memoriam is an elegy in the tradition of such great precedents as ‘Lycidas’ or ‘Adonais’. However, just as it incorporates the new worlds of scientific geology and evolutionary biology so, it is suggested, the poem embodies a new interest in subjective psychology which foreshadows and continues through the Freudian ‘revolution’ to our contemporary counselling culture. The focus is on bereavement and the reality of mourning, and the poem acts as both an ‘anatomy’ of the grieving process and a therapeutic programme for the reader-as-sufferer. By its journal-format, formal regularities of emotional ‘containment’, the persona in normative mourning-role and the construction of a worthy subject of loss (Arthur Hallam), together with other factors, In Memoriam has established itself as both a major Victorian poem and a foundational discourse in the understanding of radical loss and the work of mourning. It has become, then, a prime instance of poetry as aesthetic therapy as emphasised by this article.