This course examines the poetics of loss from the nineteenth century to the present. Our investigation will be guided by two literary approaches to loss: the genre of the elegy and the myth of Orpheus, the poet-singer who descends into the underworld to retrieve his dead beloved. Our readings and viewings will prompt us to address a set of questions: What is the relationship between loss and creativity? Can literary language resurrect or re-kill the dead? Can it freeze or reverse time? What can ghosts tell us about the persistence of the past? What are art’s strategies for representing hurt, and what kinds of consolation can it offer? Is consolation always desirable? Topics include the Victorian cult of death, nostalgia, collective and historical trauma, romantic heartbreak, experimental film, spiritualism and the occult. Course texts will be supplemented by art and archival objects (such as spirit photographs, memento mori jewelry, letters) from the Yale collections.