Revisiting Rukeyser's Elegies in Times Like These

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Elisabeth Daumer
contact email: 

We are extending the deadline to Nove. 15, since the proposal submission link did not work properly.  It does work now.

This two-day webinar, scheduled for February 19-20, 2020, centers on Muriel Rukeyser’s critically neglected cycle of ten Elegies, published over the span of a decade, from 1939-1948, and recently republished by New Directions.  Rukeyser’s Elegies offer a personal reckoning with failure, both personal and collective. They lament the defeat of liberatory struggles in Spain, the advance of fascism, the devastations of World War II and the Shoah, as well as heart-wrenching personal losses, among them the death of a beloved and the betrayal by friends and co-travelers. But more than poems of loss, Rukeyser’s Elegies engage readers in the arduous emotional and imaginative work required to face defeat, in all its magnitude, and find in it the seeds of possibility, the foundation for a new consciousness and a way of living “of almost unimagined value.” As meditations on “multi-memoried America,” a “nation of refugees that will not learn its name,” molded by the dreams, wishes, and fears of its inhabitants, from indigenous populations to migrants and refugees, these elegies prove especially relevant to the present historical moment, in the US and across the globe.  Indeed, the time is ripe for taking an in-depth look at this understudied body of poems, in the context of its time and our own continuing struggle for racial and social justice. 

The event will feature keynote speeches by Louise Kertesz and Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, as well as panels, workshops, and creative responses.  We are especially interested in proposals that 

  • Incorporate archival work on Rukeyser and the social-historical context of Elegies

  • Explore the aesthetic, political, historical, environmental, or identitarian concerns addressed within MR’s Elegies

  • Study Rukeyser’s attention to children, refugees, migrants, indigenous cultures in Elegies

  • Explore Rukeyser’s visionary imagination, paying special attention to Elegies

  • Examine Elegies in the context of other literary and artistic works (e.g., Rilke’s Duino Elegies, Picasso’s Guernica)

  • Offer original close readings of specific Elegies

  • Discuss approaches to teaching Elegies

  • Study the work of writers/artists impacted by Rukeyser 

  • Offer creative responses to Elegies 

  • Read Elegies within the contemporary struggle for racial and social justice and resistance to authoritarianism in all of its forms

  • Analyze the emotional work performed within, or envisioned by, Rukeyser’s Elegies, and the Elegy form in general


Submit proposals (, by November 1, 2020. For more information, contact Elisabeth Däumer at