Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Tom Butler

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Paula Kopacz

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Charlotte J. Rich

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


In Walt Whitman's mind, Abraham Lincoln represented the very essence of America and, because of this, Lincoln and his assassination were the ideal subject through which Whitman could explore the art of mourning on both individual and collective scales. The regimented order of lament, adoration, and consolation of the traditional elegy were not enough to accommodate the complex, organic mourning that Whitman sought to capture in his poems. Whitman's series of elegies following the death of Abraham Lincoln mythologized the president in ways that still permeate our historical view of Lincoln today. This essay seeks to give an in-depth explication of the ways in which Whitman consciously subverted the established traditions of the elegiac form to demonstrate that the process of grief could not be broken down to a simple formula as suggested by past elegists.