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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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Afterword: Poe’s Parelcon

Extract

Afterword

Poe’s Parelcon

“we have, in this poem, the most spontaneous, the most unmistakably genuine utterance of Poe.”

— George E. Woodberry1

If you google “duplicate subject” or “double subject” or “repeating the subject” you’ll get sites that discuss typical errors of ESL or grade school students.2

“Carts they rattled. Bulls they bellowed. Cows they lowed. Horses they neighed. Cats they caterwauled. Dogs they danced.” This is of course the ravings of a minor character in a minor story who is obviously being satirized by Poe. But what about “The skies they were ashen and sober;/ The leaves they were crisped and sere—/ The leaves they were withering and sere,” followed in stanza three by “But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—,” followed in stanza nine by “Then my heart it grew ashen and sober.”3

Psyche Zenobia’s obsession with bright shiny objects, especially ones that move, is unsubtle, and I suppose could be diagnosed by (post)modern Poe scholars/amateur psychoanalysts as equivalent to the supposed survivor’s remorse of a weepy Mary Rowlandson, as symptoms of early—in every sense of early—Autism. But retribution for it is less subtle still, suggesting that for Poe it is to be defined less as mental pathology than moral failing. Regardless, however, exposed as distorting grammar and syntax, this is both artful and←175 | 176→ profound, artfully suggesting that mankind’s signature gift is not immune to mankind’s signature vulnerability,...

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