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Literary Criticism Canadian

We Are What We Mourn

The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy

by (author) Priscila Uppal

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2008
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2008
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    Publish Date
    Nov 2008
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Why are so many contemporary poets writing elegies? Given a century shaped by two world wars, vast population displacements, and shifting attitudes towards aging and death, is the elegy form adaptable to the changing needs of writers and audiences? In a sceptical age, where can consolation be found?

In We Are What We Mourn Priscila Uppal examines why and how the work of mourning has drastically changed in the latter half of the twentieth century, focusing on the strong pattern in contemporary English-Canadian elegy that emphasizes connection rather than separation between the living and the dead. Uppal offers a penetrating reading of Canadian elegies that radically challenges English and American elegy traditions as well as long-standing psychological models for successful mourning. She sets up useful categories for elegy study - parental elegies, elegies for places, and elegies for cultural losses and displacements - and suggests where elegy and mourning studies might be headed post 9/11.

The first book on the Canadian poetic elegy, We Are What We Mourn challenges all previous ideas about the purpose of mourning and will intrigue anyone interested in how mourning shapes cultural identity.

About the author

Dr. Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer and York University Professor. Among her publications are nine collections of poetry, most recently, Ontological Necessities (2006; shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize), Traumatology (2010), Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, U.K.), and Winter Sport: Poems and Summer Sport: Poems; the critically-acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (2002) and To Whom It May Concern (2009); the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy (2009), and the memoir Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother (2013; shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize and the Governor General's Award). Her work has been published internationally and translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Korean and Latvian. She was the first-ever poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games as well as the Roger's Cup Tennis Tournament in 2011. Six Essential Questions, her first play, had its World Premiere as part of the Factory Theatre 2013-2014 season, and will be published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. Time Out London recently dubbed her ÒCanada's coolest poet.' For more information visit

Priscila Uppal's profile page

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