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Poe's Difference

R. C. De Prospo

Poe’s Difference argues that Edgar Allan Poe has much more in common with early American, medieval, and ancient writers than with the modern and post-modern ones with whom the writer is so often associated. This book emphasizes Poe’s anachronisms to make a number of theoretical, pedagogical, literary historical, and political claims about the backwardness of antebellum U.S. culture. Some time ago Michael Colacurcio issued the challenge that "the full case for the Puritan character of Poe’s ‘horror’ remains to be made." Although going back a good deal further than just to the "Puritans," Poe’s Difference aspires fully to make precisely this case.

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Chapter 2. Poe’s Pym/Stevenson’s Jim



Poe’s Pym/Stevenson’s Jim

“Treasure Island is a book of tight spots, of spaces that are both protective and hazardous, and one of the vicarious pleasures of reading it comes from being privy to Jim’s ravenous need to be there and to see it all, regardless of what may transpire. ‘My curiosity, in a sense, was stronger than my fear,’ he says; later on, ‘curiosity began to get the upper hand, and I determined I should have one look.’ When he finds himself in the apple barrel ‘in the extreme of fear and curiosity,’ it’s no longer simply that curiosity wins out over the fear; fear itself is translated into a kind of curiosity. The feeling is close to what Stevenson elsewhere called ‘the sympathy of fear.’”

— Matthew Bevis, “Kids Gone Rotten”1


Poe scholars have presumed debts to Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket in several subsequent novels, including (maybe) even Moby-Dick—this last, most prestigious connection, hypothesized, maybe more than a little wishfully, in the absence of any record of Melville’s himself having testified to any borrowing:

Traces of Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) in other literary texts are not hard to discover. Jules Verne’s Le Sphinx des glaces (1897), Charles Romyn Dake’s A Strange Discovery (1899), and H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (1936)←45 | 46→ are all sequels to Pym. In Henry James’s Golden...

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