"Epigraphs, Epitaphs, and Epigrams” by Jonathan Gross

Though we are all in the gutter, some of us including Dr. Jonathan Gross, are looking at the stars. Join Jonathan, Columbia alumnus and Professor in the Department of English at DePaul University, for his presentation “Epigraphs, Epitaphs, and Epigrams”. For this excursion, we’ll try our hands at writing epigrams and consider their importance in literature and life.

Be ready for an evening of refined and uncouth delights as Dr Gross takes us on an adventure he describes as: “Epigrams often get writers into trouble, such as those “nauseous epigrams of Martial”, Byron spoke of in Don Juan; an epitaph, like Keats’ “Here lies one whose name was writ in water”; or Shelley’s “He hath become something rich and strange”, combines epigraph and epitaph.  Trelawny’s words define Shelley’s life, with an epigraph from The Tempest. While Keats’ wrote his own epitaph, Shelley did not. “Who Killed John Keats?” is a tasteless epigram; Byron's epigram on Castlereagh that describes the Foreign Minister as the man who cut his country’s throat; or even his own marriage is no better—part of the thrill of Byron’s verse is the found in the rapier thrust of the epigram, the well-balanced sentence: "All tragedies are finished by a death, all comedies by a marriage,” Byron wrote inspired by Alexander Pope.

Byron was schooled by Lady Melbourne who had a full set of Voltaire’s writings at Brocket Hall: “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel,” she often said, borrowing from Walpole, Racine, or even La Bruyere.  Pushkin’s epigrams were written in this same Byronic spirit.  Some Pushkin epigrams celebrate a woman’s feet, another mocks a General’s face: Catherine II, Alexander, and General Orlov. "You do not understand yourself; you are rebelling as a child against misfortune, which is nothing but the fruit of your own childishness,” Zhukovsky warned Pushkin. “Stop acting as an epigram; be a poem”. Zukhovsky suggests that Pushkin’s epigrams were a drawing room performance, while his life should itself become poetic: he should commit himself, perhaps like Wordsworth, to his poetic profession.  Stop writing epigrams, Zukhovsky seems to warn, are you will be writing your own epitaph.”

Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Time: 6:30PM Central, 7:30PM Eastern, 4:30PM Pacific

Location: Zoom Video Conference

Cost: Free

April 03, 2024 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Zoom Video Conference

Chicago, IL
United States

Chris Stacey


Will you come?