The modern elegy: a matter of life and death in poetry

Key facts

  • Cost: £150
  • Credits: 0


From W.H. Auden’s ‘Stop all the clocks’ to Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum est’, at times of great personal or national loss we often turn to poetry to understand our grief.  Elegy has ancient origins but plays an important role today to help us remember our loved ones, relive better times, provoke change, or contemplate the precious fragility of life. Eclectic and varied, no two elegies are the same and many find room to let the light in and appreciate life. As that most famous quote from ancient Roman poet Horace puts it, many elegies remind us to ‘carpe diem’ or ‘seize the day’. How have more recent poets tackled these topics? How do writers from other cultures and places have to say about loss these days? 

Join this reflective course to explore a broad range of elegies from over the 20th and 21st century. Situating each poem in its diverse social and cultural context, this course will analyse some examples in-depth to discover together their key literary features and what they have to say about loss. While the focus of this course will be on literary discussion rather than therapeutic support, personal reflections provoked by the poems are welcomed as we try to discover together what they have to teach us about life and death. 

Over a series of talks and collective close-readings, our expert tutor will explain: 

  • key distinctive literary features of elegiac poetry over the 20th to 21st Century through close textual analysis of a range of notable examples 
  • their social background and literary context  

You will also have the chance to discuss and reflect on what you learn with other students and the tutor in seminars 

Choose this course if you want to learn: 

  • more about elegy as a literary mode and the rewards of close reading 
  • more about how poems are written, received and influence others 
  • more about the broader social context of these texts 

Who is this course for?

Anyone new to studying literature and interested in: 

  • poetry 
  • elegy as a literary genre or mode of writing 
  • Modern 20th or contemporary 21st century literature 


None, this is a non-credit course 

Mode of study

This 10-week course will be delivered online via 2-hour seminars led by a tutor over Zoom. 

Course materials will be provided via a shared online folder 


can inform your personal reading list and introduce you to some new literary classics  

Find out more

The University holds open days throughout the year where you can meet with staff to discuss our short course provision. Find out more about University of Glasgow open days