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"The well-dissembled mourner": lightning's (dis)course in the still lives of Thomson's "Celadon and Amelia"

"The well-dissembled mourner": lightning's (dis)course in the still lives of Thomson's "Celadon and Amelia"

Stenke, Katarina ORCID: 0000-0003-4006-3826 (2014) "The well-dissembled mourner": lightning's (dis)course in the still lives of Thomson's "Celadon and Amelia". Studies in the Literary Imagination, 46 (1). pp. 19-46. ISSN 0039-3819 (Print), 2165-2678 (Online) (doi:

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This essay investigates the sources and intertexts of a famous narrative episode in James Thomson's popular long poem "The Seasons" (1746), namely the sentimental tale of "Celadon and Amelia." From its first publication onwards, this episode was repeatedly excerpted, illustrated and re-told, especially in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As such, this story (of two pastoral lovers who are parted when one is struck by lightning) has a long afterlife and is implicated in the Romantic configurations of cultural affect that dominate Western understandings of art and literature up to the present day.

However, while its widespread influence on later writers, artists and readers has been extensively studied, the composite sources of the tale have yet to be fully recovered. This article therefore undertakes such a recovery.

In doing so, it not only reveals the wide range of media on which Thomson drew, from newspapers and scientific discourse to poetry and devotional works, but also offers a challenge to a long-established critical tradition which reads the whole of “The Seasons” as dominated by movement and sequence. Instead, it is argued, the static or "statuesque" finale of the "Celadon and Amelia" episode is replicated in many places throughout the poem, moments which reflect Thomson’s competitive engagements with intertexts in a variety of static media, and which cumulatively represent an attack on the authenticity and memorial efficacy of conventional funerary genres such as sculpture and epitaph.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: James Thomson; The Seasons; Statues; texts; adaptation; Sculpture; Rossi
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 28 May 2020 07:27

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