Department of English
“‘Corpus Erat’: Ophelia’s Lyric Flesh.”
My dissertation considers for the first time the embodied figure of the dead beloved as a literary device in the poetry and drama of early modern England. Alive, the beloved’s body literalizes common tropes of genre, but after death, her corpse disrupts genre’s tropes and social functions. The persuasive power of lyric becomes ineffectual, elegies cease to comfort the bereaved, and the heroes of epic experience only hollow victories. Currently, scholars draw very few connections between genre and embodiment, but this project argues for the broad significance of one specific bodily figure across a variety of genres including lyric, epic, elegy, dramatic tragedy, and masque. From Plato and Aristotle in antiquity to Philip Sidney in the late sixteenth century, writers of literary criticism have used bodily metaphors to conceptualize genre, and early modern poetry and drama complicate this relationship by weaving issues of authorship, immortality, subjectivity, and love into literary and bodily forms. The body of the beloved thus becomes the epicenter for a more complex and nuanced contemporary understanding of how literature is created and understood.