Gothic Literature: Edgar Allan Poe’s Narratives

May 19, 2022 by Essay Writer

Edgar Allan Poe’s narratives envision a larger body of interdisciplinary elements within the literary purview of the Gothic; so far in creating a distinct mode of style that is new and fundamentally universal in approach, the writer can be seen as perfecting it through his hyperbolism of human fears and follies. The title “Revisiting the Gothic” comprise of not only a quintessential positioning of Gothic and its creativity in the field of literature, but it is a re-analyzing as of how Poe’s works fits into a much larger system of a genre that transcends the radicalism and didacticism into which it was earlier categorized. Poe’s narratives have transcended the confined dungeons, castles and ancestral houses with their curses, ghosts and sadistic secrets and have come out into a threshold of what may be termed as the Gothic Realism rather than the Gothic horror. In a way, it has become a representation of our deepest fears and insecurities which is a part and parcel of our personality and being. Poe’s works subverts the conventional mode of gothic storytelling including other aspect such as setting, source of terror, emotional transparency of the characters etc. and expands his vision to a much more complex and intimidating position of human experience in general. Gothic in his observation becomes a flawless and active association of ideas and concepts that delves deep into the human mind and its relation to the external environment. This research took up this stance to provide an argument regarding the malleability of the Gothic in the hands of Edgar Allan Poe, and after analyzing broadly the different elements or features that undertook the genre into a new form one can provide a fruitful conclusion regarding the authenticity of the writer’s works in re-defining the genre as a whole. After carefully considering the chapters and their systematic analysis of the newness that exist within Poe’s select texts, it is quite clear that his works has some sort of a postmodern touch, which goes beyond the early traditional hallmark of Gothic literature as a pleasure-evoking form of literary narrative. It has been more concretized within the very margins of its limited domain.

The first chapter which speaks about the art of the sensationalist technique along with the creativity of a complex narrative design, achieves its argument by an understanding of how narratology and sensationalism are blended together in order to put forward a vista of experience regarding human psyche as well as the quest for an absolute truth in understanding the same. Sensationalism as part of the narrative and narrative as part of the sensationalism produces a double effect in radiating an ambiguity over the texts, which perplexes the readers and opens up a portal for multifaceted meanings within the body of the text. Similarly, narratology which is much complex and full of digressions becomes necessarily a way to explore more into the thoughts and ideas involving the narrator and the characters, thus, giving us a chance to comprehend the larger domain of subjectivity within them that have its own dire consequences. The importance of the chapter lies in its arguing about the innovative style of narration and the use of sensationalism in Poe’s texts, which stands outside the conventional mode of Gothic, as such it enters much deep into the recesses of the human action and behaviour by simultaneously positioning the impossibility of it. The bringing up of two completely different views i.e. representing the odd and the unnatural within the natural, expressing sanity within insanity and normalizing horror as a morbid expression of human insecurity exemplifies Poe’s works as one of a kind that differs from the early typical didacticism of Gothic literature. The overtly dramatic implications of the uncanny, the grotesque and blood and gore within the texts creates an automatic expression of terror and awe, but, also keeps the readers at edge because it interrogates into the very concept of truth and falsity in the way they are presented. The narratology defines the narrators and their realistic or hallucinating vision upon the world as something to which we all can relate; it jumps from truth to a sense of frenzied imagination, and then back to truth again which is significant in portraying a realistic imagery of the flaws within us. Sensationalism accompanies the narrative voices through the sudden shivers, the jump scares, the pauses, the exclamations, disclosure of mysteries, horrifying crimes, haunting environment, misleading fascinations, abominable thought, supernatural encounters and such, which justifies themselves pertaining to the narrator’s position in the text. The skilful handling of these two aspects in Poe’s works puts up Gothic in a pedestal that is much insightful and thought-provoking in the matters of human follies and foibles.

What makes the Gothic more updated in Poe’s fictions include the undertaking of a rational side to express irrational eccentricities. As the second chapter states, Edgar Allan Poe’s affiliation with the Science-fiction marks him as one of the predecessors of this literary form where his exposition of rationality, reason and logic through what he himself terms as “ratiocination” into the lap of the horror makes an unprecedented change over the Gothic scenario. If we are to revisit the Gothic by looking into Poe’s works, the experimentation over the mechanical and the logical is evident in some of his least popular works as analyzed in the chapter, which significantly pinpoints the multidisciplinary angle that Gothic acquired through his works. The picturesque description of man and machine’s relation, both physically and spiritually has been wonderfully crafted within the tales that speaks volumes about how horror comes not only from what we think as impossible but, it exist within the realm of reality in different shapes and forms including our very own existence. Later prominent Science-fiction writers like Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, H.P Lovecraft and Stephen King have commented on Poe being the inspiration behind some of their fictions; flying hot air balloon journeys, otherworldly encounters in space, medical procedures of anatomy, dissection and embalming, time travel, the art of mesmerism and metempsychosis, bodily dissolution, robot identity, galvanism, telepathy, precision of calculation and reasoning etc. comprises of what can be termed as the Gothic Science-fiction of Poe’s stories. It can be noted how these rational reverberations traditionally stands against the radicalism of early Gothic that only incorporated things odd and unnatural, the unknown and the supernatural. in such a way, the chapter obtains and justifies how the texts that has been analysed form a sort of rejuvenation regarding the shift in context of the Gothic materials. Despite the stereotypical assumptions of what Gothic constitute in the early phase, which basically turned towards the invoking of fear and terror through the association of the unknown, Poe’s texts somehow subverts this very frame of structure and goes beyond the standard norms of the genre. Expressing man’s extreme rationalizing power and his simultaneous descent into transgression or the sublime through unreal and supernatural encounters displays Poe’s potentiality and success in bringing out Gothic from its confines of limited freedom of style.

Poe’s use of architecture and spaces is discussed in the third chapter, which forms a major part of his narratives being metaphorical and can be seen as an elaborate commentary upon the characters’ relation to their outside environment. In most cases in the texts that have been taken for analysis the architecture and the spaces within it juxtaposes with the inner turmoil that the narrators go throughout the entire episode, and conveys an existence of an invisible force between them that binds their fate together. The argument was to explain how Gothic not only comes from the other or the unseen, but, it stays with us and around us, and those domestic spaces and structures become the very source of this statement put forward. In the texts the architectural setups is parallel to the embodiment of the narrators’ and the characters’ subjective impulse and emotional outcries. Similarly, the spaces become a projection of the mental faculty of the characters, and both share a common memory of horror, yearning, sinful past, guilt and shame. Such abstract sentiments and passions are put forward by giving a supernatural identity to the spaces, which haunts and traumatizes its owners and shows them their true self. In a way we can observe the concrete architecture as the design of the mind of the characters themselves, and the spaces within it as their numerous traits framing their whole personality. This metaphorical delineation is significant in creating a sort of sensationalism that actively engages the reader into pondering and interrogating the validity of the events. It acts as a tool in the development of the plot, and also posits fundamental queries and doubts relating to man’s individualism and its position amidst its surrounding. In the texts spaces become memories and dissolute with the characters’ identity, only to make them acknowledge their deepest anxieties and secrets. Poe’s exceptional use of architecture and space as something that has a soul of its own, and their application in externalizing the characters’ vulnerabilities and vehemence again establishes the Gothic genre into a new light, where it expands and embraces new thematic articulations and ideologies.

This revisit to the Gothic literature in order to expound it as a form of realism rather than radicalism by contextualizing Poe’s works has proven fruitful, as the writer’s texts enhances the knowledge of the readers regarding the Gothic style in a new manner. Apart from psychoanalysis of Poe’s corpus which is pretty much common among the ages, the writer’s use of space, science-fiction elements and ingenious narratives puts him in a new stance of creativity. After looking into these aspects which were quite ahead of its time, he can be regarded as a forerunner of Postmodern Gothic, as one can examine such postmodern theoretical dimensions in his tales ranging from space, narratology to the polemics of Sci-Fi. The Gothic literature has remarkably arrived into a position which is flexible and independent with its wide range of inclusivity from topics of psychology, science, spaces to the art or narratology, and Edgar Allan Poe can definitely be regarded from this research as the one that started this revolutionary phase.


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