Cemetary

Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.: The Elysian Fields of the Southern United States

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 18th March 2021
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
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Emma Gleave
(University of Cambridge)

In my paper on Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston (1850), I will review the classical past's appropriation in the rural cemetery movement. In the United States, during the first half of the nineteenth century, attitudes towards burials and their location changed. Owing to hygienic concerns and pressure on city-centre space, cemeteries were built on cities' outskirts. Magnolia is a large (92 acres) cemetery with extensive landscaped grounds modelled on the Elysian Fields, the paradise of Homer, Hesiod, and Virgil.

I shall argue that Magnolia resonated with links to the ancient past. Its use was reminiscent of the Roman cemeteries, which were regularly visited on feast days such as the Parentalia and the Lemuria. Magnolia quickly became a popular and accessible destination for locals and tourists. Its funerary art and architecture was partially inspired by architectural discoveries such as Pompeii and books of antiquities such as Stuart and Revett's The Antiquities of Athens.

Lastly, I shall argue that the neighbouring black cemeteries took up Magnolia's classical references. By 1856 five cemeteries had been built in Magnolia's vicinity, in a similar rural style. This was evidence of their desire to be assimilated within the cultural values of white Charlestonians.

Please email Rachael Cornwell (R.H.Cornwell@liverpool.ac.uk) or Daniel Lowes (D.G.Lowes@liverpool.ac.uk) for the zoom link.