“A Sorrow of Stones”: Death, Burial, and Mourning in the Writing of Anne Wilkinson

Sara Jamieson


Much of Anne Wilkinson’s writing on death and bereavement articulates a sense of being caught between two different cultures of mourning: the Victorian, with its formalized and public rituals which enabled the expression and resolution of sorrow; and the mid-twentieth-century, which divested itself completely of mourning rituals. The twentieth-century denial of grief that Wilkinson criticizes is nowhere more pronounced than in the culture of silence that has surrounded infant death, a form of loss with which Wilkinson herself was personally acquainted. In poems such as “Nursery Rhymes” and “Lullaby,” Wilkinson draws upon the kinds of consolatory tropes common to a nineteenth-century tradition of popular infant elegies; however, she uses those conventions in resistant ways. Rather than idealizing motherhood as women’s primary social role, Wilkinson registers her own struggle to balance the demands of motherhood and of art in a postwar culture that similarly positioned women as naturally and exclusively maternal.


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