The animal voices of Edgar Allan Poe

Smith, Amyanne (2014) The animal voices of Edgar Allan Poe. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

There are prominent animal figures and graphic moments of animal imagery in several of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. These animals are at the heart of the action; they are often main characters. Poe’s animals have voices and these voices challenge the dominant monologue of the narrators and undermine the prevalent ideologies that the stories enact. Poe’s animals shriek, wail, and scream and their voices enable political critiques of some of the central issues at the heart of antebellum America. Without these animals, the marginalized voices could not be heard. The animal denizens in Poe’s stories speak: the cat of “The Black Cat” screams, interrupting and condemning a patriarchal narrator and the orangutan of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” shrieks, shaves, and murders like a human, challenging the dehumanization of slaves in America. Animal imagery also speaks in the final two stories, but not in the same way; animalizing another being capitalizes on a hierarchy of classifications. By categorizing their oppressors as animals, the patients of “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” open up a discourse with the narrator in a place where the psychology of madness would silence the voices of the insane and the jester of “Hop-Frog” subverts the monarchical dominance that would oppress the court fool. Poe’s fictional animals reveal how the categories used to construct American ideologies could marginalize, abuse, and exploit different beings. These animal voices force these categories into crisis, destabilizing the definition of the human and problematizing the treatment of a variety of subhuman beings. Poe is not an animal rights advocate, but his animal figures are able to show us the problems and power of the categorical systems we use to structure our lives.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8091
Item ID: 8091
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 99-108).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: October 2014
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: United States
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849--Characters--Animals; Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849--Criticism and interpretation; Animals in literature--Political aspects; Ideology--United States--History--19th century

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