Memory's uncertain


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Memory's uncertain mourning and doubt in three tales by Edgar Allen Poe
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ix, 333 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Jernigan, William Lambert, 1947-
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 327-332).
Statement of Responsibility:
by William Lambert Jernigan.
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Copyright 1994


William Lambert Jernigan

I dedicate this dissertation to the memories of Louis L.

Jernigan, the father I never knew; of James M. Peeler, Jr.,

the father who tried to raise me; and of Robert Huffacker, a

father in spirit; and to the survivors, Elizabeth Landon, my

mother; Rachel Lee Jernigan, my loving daughter; and Cheryl L.

Bailey, her mother.


I must give thanks to many figures and voices, companions

and friends who have contributed to the construction of this

dissertation. The privilege of sharing, borrowing, and

adopting their experiences, thoughts, and wisdoms have given

me a sense of envisioning the possibility of service.

I owe so much to Elizabeth Landon, Cheryl Bailey, and

Rachel Jernigan that I can only remain silent before their

gifts. I thank my brilliant friends, Robert E. Robinson,

Chandrashekhar S. Joshi, and Marion Lee, for their years of

support and advice. With an effort at humility, I hope I have

accepted some of what Bill W., Dr. Bob, Jim Hartman, Mircea

Eliade, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Sun Bear, Tom Brown, George

Bradford, John Zerzan, Jack Forbes, and George Goodstriker

have offered me.

I owe a very special gratitude to Ivor Morgan Thomas and

George Mitchell. I appreciate the care shown for me by Celia

Ashbaugh, Therese Ensley, Lucana Lagana, Amy Anderson, Sarah

Simpson, and Joan Livingston. Over the years and often long

into the night, I have had the privileges and blessings to

hold many stimulating and exciting discussions with Marion

Lee, Nicholas Pagan, Margot Kimball, Daniel Moors, Amy Murphy,

Leslie Henson, Mary Ann Lieby, Richard Howard, Thomas Kenny,


John Franklin, Sam Kimball, Ellen Bush, Jack Stone, Roy and

Judy Parkhurst, Harvey and Latika Malloy, Richard Smyth, Lana

Faulks, Craig Saper, Chris Coates, and Allen Meek. I remain

particularly grateful for the patient guidance provided by my

director, John Leavey, Jr. I also wish to thank David

Leverenz, John Seelye, Robert D'Amico, David Locke, Marie

Nelson, Brian McCrea, Andrew Gordon, Norman Holland, and Ellie

Ragland-Sullivan for their valuable criticisms.

I owe intellectual debts to Maurice Materlinck, Maurice

Blanchot, Philippe Aries, Sigmund Freud, Ernest Becker,

Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok, Julia Kristeva, Mary Douglas,

Anne W. Schaef, G. R. Thompson, J. G. Kennedy, Richard Popkin,

J. Hillis Miller, and Jacques Derrida without whom many

notions found through my work would have stayed inarticulate.

To all these and more, who have given me help for the

asking, I stand in gratitude. Whatever of worth may appear

through my text attribute to them; for the many faults I

accept responsibility as best as I can.




A Situation of Dilemmas .
A Reading of Dilemmas . .
Notes . .

Mourning in Freud, Abraham, and Klein
Abraham and Torok's Crypts .
Ghostly Gaps . .
Poe's Letters ......
From Mourning to Doubt . .
Two Psychocritics Read Poe .
The Unconscious Memory Encounters Neg
Loss . .

The Idealisms of Plato and Phrenology
Poe's Skepticism . .
Poe's Dilemma of Doubtful Faith .
Literary Critics on Poe's Skepticism .
Bailey's Suggested Therapy .
Note . . .

The Orphanage . .
The Architecture of Reading .
The Architecture of Memory .
Narrative as Keeping .
Reflections on a Memorial Architecture .
The Narrator's Fancy .
Roderick's Imagination .
Memorial Reading . .
Notes . . .

Haunting Feelings . .
A Lost and Ghostly Cosmology .
The Dreams of Memory . .

V. ii

. .
. .




S 167
S 169
. 181
S 189
S 222
S 236


Intellectual Demons
Angelic Fidelity .
Conclusion .
Notes .




. . 260
. . 276
. . 294
. . 302

. . 307

. . 327

. . 333


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



William Lambert Jernigan

December 1994

Chairperson: John P. Leavey, Jr.
Major Department: English

This dissertation examines some unsettling effects of

mourning and skepticism on memory in Edgar Allan Poe.

Unfounding any (con)textual distinction, mourning and

skepticism suggest losses that lead to keeping in crypts.

Inherited as phantasmic ruins and haunted suspensions, these

cryptic keeping in mind and as one's own (the proper) serve

as the bases for memory. Strangely, through doubles mourning

and suspension allow (con)textual keeping while tending

toward losses. As each double remains lost, ultimate ideals

become uncertain, impossible to conceive.

In chapter one, I argue that Poe's never-ending mourning

disrupts Freud's permanent unconscious such that memory

becomes a process of mourning. I show in the next chapter

that Poe intuitively argues against an ultimate basis for

either faith or doubt. In chapter three, "The Fall of the


House of Usher" provides memorial identifications that allow

the unreadable to become readable. The final chapter examines

how "Morella" and "Eleonora" contrast the violent excesses

stemming from the uncertain adoptions of demonic fears or

seraphic hopes.

Implicated in a memorial necrophilia and doubt, the

differences of haunting suspensions help place the responsive

keeping of memory. Making appearances possible, never-ending

mourning and the impossibility of ultimate conception unsettle

memory's confidences and convictions.


Penumbra asked Shadow, saying, "Formerly you were
walking on and now you have stopped. Formerly you
were sitting and now you have risen. How is it
that you are so without stability?"
Shadow replied, "I wait for the movements of
something else to do what I do, and that something
else on which I wait waits further on another to do
as it does. My Waiting: is it for the scales of a
snake or the wings of a cicada? How should I know
why I do one thing and not another?"
Formerly, I, Chuang Chou, dreamed that I was a
butterfly, a butterfly flying about feeling that it
was enjoying itself. I did not know that it was
Chou. Suddenly I awoke and was myself again, the
veritable Chou. I did not know whether it had
formerly been Chou dreaming that he was a
butterfly, or it was now a butterfly dreaming that
it was Chou. But between Chou and a butterfly
there must be some difference.
--Chuang Chou, Chaung Tzu: Genius of the Absurd

A Situation of Dilemmas

From the socially constructed pit of the Inquisition to

the natural maelstrom, as an accepted commonplace, Poe's works

concentrate on the effects of absences. In "The Problem of

Poe" Kenneth Dauber situates these effects in a denial of

origins and in the impossibility of thinking of creation: "the

origin, no point of generation, is the system itself, and

Poe's stories quite literally are 'about' nothing,

stories written around a vacancy" (652). Locating "a deferral



of meaning" and "deferral of authority" basic to Poe's works

(648 & 657), Dauber positions Poe's intellectual views: "If

Poe rejects the positivism of the eighteenth century, he

rejects the idealism of his own age as well, and in much the

same way, by a collapse of reference" (648). Finding that Poe

"admits opposing perspectives simultaneously, thus dissolving

in the text the very limits by reference to which identity,

however unstable, may determine itself" (649), Dauber regards

Poe's works as a "pervasive emptiness which American writing

must neglect" and "a memory to be lost, a model, even, but not

to be imitated" (657). Despite discovering that "Poe's work

. absorbs all possible readers into itself" (650), the

critic recommends a forgetful blindness to "Poe's absorptive

technique" although, like T. S. Eliot, Dauber remains unsure

whether it exerts influence or not. Thus, Dauber concludes,

"Not seeing Poe constitutes the history of American literature

in the nineteenth century and perhaps beyond" (657).

Because Poe's works deal with the pains and details of

mourning and doubt, their memorials remain easily forgotten

and neglected and seemingly better repressed. This attitude

engages many problems of the questing hero covered in Ernest

Becker's The Denial of Death. Whether credible or incredible,

Poe's texts insinuate a heterogeneous doubling tending toward

the losses of trust and death. Unsettling confidence and

conviction, the gaps of conceptual impossibility and

everlasting and never-ending mourning interrupt the "heroic"

affirmations of absolute certainty and ultimate assurance.

Despite fears of some deflation or paralytic corrosion

radiating from this referential collapse, the agnostic

attention to losses does not destroy all contextual relations.

Although their final status remains undecidable, I argue,

suspended phantasms emerge through the haunted and haunting

layers of inheritances and memorial keeping that make

possible the strange regards of reading and responsive

actions. Admittedly, these possibilities function

contextually rather than absolutely. Poe's texts doubly

reflect skeptical doubts and, derived from dreamy reveries,

mournful distrusts.

Although straining to impose an equivalence in lieu of a

strange irreconcilability, in American Hieroqlypics John Irwin

considers Poe's "odd equation of death and the abyss" (187):

The abyss is, after all, the endless, the limitless--it
is infinity; while death is the absolute limit of human
consciousness. What accounts for this equation is the
fact that an absolute limit and the absolutely limitless
are equally impossible for the human mind to conceive.

While any equation between death and the abyss must remain

indeterminable, the losses of these recessive tendencies

toward conceptual impossibilities suspend ultimate

foundations. For self-consciousness, Irwin tries to situate

the effects of mediation and opposition: "Self-consciousness

is, then, the recognition (in both senses of the word) of

nonrecognition, the simultaneous constitution of both a polar

opposition and the condition of mediation" (182). While


mediation tends toward heterogeneous suspensions, opposition

tends toward heterogeneous doublings. Before turning to

Narcissus' fantasy of depth, a problem I see as similar to

that haunting readers, Irwin considers the uncertain networks

of opposition that double and split:

The attempt to divide a mutually constitutive opposition
and completely separate the opposing terms from each
other always turns into a splitting/doubling, as if one
tried to separate the north and south poles of a bar
magnet by sawing the bar in half, only to find that
instead of separating the poles one had produced two new
bar magnets, each with its own north and south poles. Or
to phrase it another way, the splitting of a mutually
constitutive opposition is like the dividing of an
amoeba: halving is doubling. It is this
simultaneous internal splitting / external doubling that
renders the notion of a limit problematic in a mutually
constitutive opposition. For example, in the opposition
between body and shadow, there is an essential (that is,
original) uncertainty as to whether the dividing line
between the two should be interpreted as an internal or
an external limit, whether the line should be read
metonymically (as the internal boundary between two
halves of a whole--splitting) or metaphorically (as the
external boundary between two similar wholes--doubling).

Because Irwin finds the doubling of body and shadow as a

"governing image" in Poe (193), his example reflects "the

dizzying realization that this internal limit is the self's

external limit, that the self as image cannot pass the

reflecting surface, cannot pass the image as boundary" (157).

Although hampered by equations, magnets, and amoebas, Irwin

appreciates the indeterminacy and uncertainty that strangely

accompanies Poe's contexts with haunting suspensions.

Poe finds many abstract terms or mere words lacking any

demonstrable referent. This lack of sensible referent leads


to a regression toward conceptual impossibility and creates

inconsistencies for attempts to establish proper identities or

distinctions based on such terms. These aborted efforts drive

thoughts and emotions, fancies and imaginations into

hallucinatory doublings with the losses of doubt and death.

As these ruined threads hold Poe's aesthetic intuition of

mournful skepticism at stake, attention to his intellectual

doubts and his emotional engagements with death and dreamy

reveries helps resolve his double approach to loss.

Pursuing his intellectual case against placing faith in

any allegedly complete conception of "infinity," Poe regards,

first, the human demand for relation that calls for attempts

at conceiving such ideas and, second, the presuppositions for

conceiving such an idea. The inability to distinguish the

genuine from the counterfeit serves as an example for any

faith or belief trying to found itself on an original or first

cause through logical proof or empirical demonstration.

First, Poe recognizes the powerful effects of the lack of

a demonstrable object or origin in language. Considering

ever-regressing ideas or terms, like infinity, as the thought

of a thought, Poe notes the sensible boundary of the visible:

Let us begin, then, at once, with that merest of words,
"Infinity." This, like God," "spirit," and some other
expressions of which the equivalents exist in all
languages, is by no means the expression of an idea--but
of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt
at an impossible conception. Man needed a term by which
to point out the direction of this effort--the cloud
behind which lay, forever invisible, the object of this
attempt. A word, in fine, was demanded, by means of
which one human being might put himself in relation at


once with another human being and with a certain tendency
of the human intellect. Out of this demand arose the
word, "Infinity;" which is thus the representative but of
the thought of a thought. (XVI 200)*

A word like death or truth does not express an idea. It

reflects an effort at an idea or a tendency toward an idea.

The use of the word leaves the goal of the word unobtained.

A sensible idea lies past the reach of human senses. A

relational need or demand calls for a human to enter into a

structured involvement with a different human through these

linguistic or expressive words whose clouded or veiled objects

must remain forever uncertain. Due to the lack of any

demonstrable reference, this view of language regards terms

without an apparent object as uncertain and circumscribed by

a negative limit. The idea or ideal whose final object stays

forever out of sight and sense reflects an inherited tendency

of linguistic or expressive attempts to conceptualize the

inconceivable, and these traditional intellectual attempts,

these ever-regressing thoughts of thoughts, have powerful and

even violent effects among human relations and contexts as the

endeavors to find a final assurance press toward an

unreachable certainty, the impossible conception. This "loss"

of the desired idea engages the dynamics of mourning with its

* Citations of Poe's works from James A. Harrison's edition
will appear with a Roman numeral referring to the volume
before the page number. Sources from Ostrom or Mabbott use
Arabic numbers before the page number.


deceptions of attaining the impossible and helps structure

approaches to the desired idea through tendencies within human

relations.' As a narrator, Poe certainly has no privileged

viewpoint from which to regard the dynamics of these

ultimately untenable tendencies, but emotionally and

intellectually, his texts inscribe a determined interest and

fascination with the myriad implications of the ways various

conceptions approach the limits of nothing and death.

Second, according to Poe, the conceptual deception of

obtaining a formed idea arises from a mental fancy that

entertains the conveyance or conversion of the impossible into

the possible. By looking at the connection of the infinite

with the finite, Poe traces out the psychological and

intellectual processes that entertain the fantasy of properly

possessing an ultimate certainty:

A mind not thoroughly self-conscious--not accustomed to
the introspective analysis of its own operations--will,
it is true, often deceive itself by supposing that it has
entertained the conception of which we speak. In the
effort to entertain it, we proceed step beyond step--we
fancy point still beyond point; and so long as we
continue the effort, it may be said, in fact, that we are
tending to the formation of the idea designated; while
the strength of the impression that we actually form or
have formed it, is in the ratio of the period during
which we keep up the mental endeavor. But it is in the
act of discontinuing the endeavor--of fulfilling (as we
think) the idea--of putting the finishing stroke (as we
suppose) to the conception--that we overthrow at once the
whole fabric of our fancy by resting upon one ultimate
and therefore definite point. This fact, however, we
fail to perceive, on account of the absolute coincidence,
in time, between the settling down upon the ultimate
point and the act of cessation in thinking.--In
attempting, on the one hand, to frame the idea of a


limited space, we merely converse the processes which
involve the impossibility. (XVI 202-3)

Thinking or supposing that we (Poe includes himself) put the

finishing stroke on a conception or fulfill an idea overthrows

the deceptively whole fabric by, at once, discontinuing or

interrupting the endeavor and resting upon a fancied ultimate

point. The strength and time spent in keeping up the

endeavor, the settling down upon the fancied final point, and

the cessation in thinking contribute to the deception of

converting the impossible. A similar overthrow awaits the

deception of reaching any ultimate point.

Still, the tendencies toward the conception of

possibilities pursue the impossible. However, the

impossibility of conceiving the ultimate infinite or finite,

like the finality of death or life, remains, Poe might claim,

not conversed. This failure of ideal conception, due to the

remaining impossibility stretching forever past the cessation

of an endeavor, has many apparently mournful and unsettling

effects on the proprieties of framing and limits of conceptual

and abstract knowledge. This remaining impossibility brings

into question the very mourning or loss of ideals. The

concepts of loss depend on contextual terms that themselves

disappear into loss.

Emotionally and intellectually, it seems impossible to

mourn the impossible. If ideals stay forever unattainable,

then the very ideal basis for reckoning loss itself becomes

lost in advance. This loss of even the notion of loss aborts

in advance not only appropriation, but also disappropriation,

and unsettles not only resistance to loss, but also any

alleged acceptance of loss. As the loss of loss, this problem

with ideality might have led Poe to turn to intuitive tastes

and the "keeping" of aesthetics for his images of mourning.

This failure ruptures the fancied or imagined deception

framing any final or ultimate idea or ideal, even that of

loss. In relation to such terms, no point rests with an

assured certainty. The difference between the real and the

fake coin illustrates Poe's questioning of the distinctions

between the genuine and the counterfeit in the absence of any

demonstrable original. In a review of Human Magnetism by W.

Newnham, Poe finds a variant of begging the question that he

calls begging the admission:

Counterfeit coin is said to prove the existence of
genuine--but this is no more than the truism that there
can be no counterfeit where there is no genuine--just as
there can be no badness where there is no goodness--the
considerations being purely relative; but, because there
can be no counterfeit where there is no original, does it
in any manner follow that any undemonstrated original
exists? In seeing a piece of gold we know it to be
counterfeit by coins admitted to be genuine; but were no
coin admitted to be genuine, how should we establish the
counterfeit, and what right should we have to speak of
counterfeits at all? (XII 122)

This illustration suggests how the negation and absence of any

original seem to lead to a lack of proof or demonstration for

Poe. Nothing provides no basis for comparison or contrast

(pardon the double negative). Because many notions that

depend on what culture deems properly meaningful lack such

proof or demonstration, Poe found himself critical of many


socially accepted values, and yet he still had to endure in

society and to function politely with those who hold such

undemonstrable notions and values. The predicament of

simulation becomes how to act as if the undemonstrated, at

least, appears demonstrated. For a writer dependent for his

livelihood on his readers, this problem of receptions becomes

particularly critical.

The failure of conceptual certainty aborts the societal

proper with never-ending ruptures of loss. Striving for

impossible closure, the fancied or imagined tendency toward

the formation of the idea has certain structural features that

mark the attempt, human relations, and the intellect. Much

remains at stake in preserving the commonly shared conceptual

borders of conceivability in their so-called place, even if

their tradition opens upon grave impossibilities. As cultural

and social mores and orthodoxies, these inherited margins of

conventional propriety designate at once the acceptable,

ultimate, and proper foci of conception and those limits at

which acceptable thinking may cease.

Poe finds a model for death in dreamless sleep. Poe

believes hypnogogic reveries and dreams approach the absence

of individual identities more clearly than waking states. In

"The Colloquy of Monos and Una," Monos explains that "by sleep

and its world alone is Death imaged" (IV 211). Philippe Aries

in his excellent sociological and historical study of Western

European culture's funeral attitudes and practices, The Hour


of Our Death, notes the almost universal acceptance of this

association: "The idea of sleep is the most ancient, the most

popular, and the most constant image of the beyond" (24). A

wide variety of cultural perspectives accepts this


In a remarkable section of Marginalia, Poe accepts the

seemingly impossible challenge of articulating hypnogogic

reveries or dreamy "fancies" into language: "Now, so entire is

my faith in the power of words, that, at times, I have

believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies

such as I have attempted to describe" (XVI 89). Still, he

admits his abortive failure: "There is, however, a class of

fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to

which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt

language" (XVI 88). Recognizing that the term "fancy" does

not even remotely apply to these psychic "shadows of shadows

in question" (XVI 88), Poe acknowledges only the initial

difficulties of this conveyance or adoption into words, this


Requiring the most intense tranquility of the soul and

perfect mental and bodily health, these "supernal" fancies or

reveries arise "at those mere points of time where the

confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of

dreams" (XVI 88). Poe regards these pleasurable ecstacies as

"a glimpse of the spirit's outer world" and tries to relate

their strange sensibility by claiming, "It is as if the five


senses were supplanted by five myriad others alien to

mortality" (XVI 89). Not lucid dreams, however; Poe notes

that "I am aware of these 'fancies' only when I am upon the

very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so" (XVI

88). If, as Freud claims, the unconscious expresses itself

with few inhibitions in dreams, these reveries might also

provide an access into usually neglected regions of the mind

between unconscious dreams and conscious awareness. Having

developed the ability under favorable conditions of inducing

these reveries, Poe's problem at the limit becomes conveying

or conversing these supervening fancies into words:

Not that I can continue the condition--not that I can
render the point more than a point--but that I can
startle myself from the point into wakefulness--and thus
transfer the point itself into the realm of Memory--
convey its impressions, or more properly their
recollections, to a situation where (although still for
a very brief period) I can survey them with the eye of
analysis. (XVI 90)

While the success of such an imaginary transference or

conveyance remains negatively limited by the not "as yet," the

embodiment in words or analysis of these points of reveries

presupposes the mediating function of memory or recollection.

As an art of embodying loss, memory marks many of Poe's

more imaginative textual efforts with a memorial melancholy.

In faulting Locke and Leibniz for misapprehending the faculty

of memory, Poe claims that it "is neither primitive nor

independent," but "exists in conjunction with each primitive

faculty, and inseparable from it" (IX 65). These

encompassing "dim but ever present memories" suspend between


the haunted dreams of youth and a "Destiny more vast--very

distant in the by-gone time, and infinitely awful" (XVI 311-


John Irwin recognizes the memorial importance of loss for

reading effected by attention's wavering between fancy and

imagination: "What these periodic losses of memory involve is

not the loss of the physical inscriptions of historical memory

(writing, artifacts, and so on) but the loss of the ability to

read or recognize these inscriptions, the ability to interpret

them correctly" (174). In opposition to remembrance,

forgetting has a double relation to death as material

dissolution, "the self's external limit," and as "the self's

internal limit, its principle of differentiation" (175).

Calling attention to the active forgetting that makes memory

possible, Irwin speculates that the excesses of "[a] memory

that retains everything and a memory that retains almost

nothing amount finally to the same thing--the collapse of

signification" (178). Irwin then argues that as material

memorials surviving the ability to read them, undecipherable

and cryptic inscriptions become disturbing "because here

writing seems to commemorate its own inability by itself to

transmit memory, its status not as a substitute for memory but

simply as an aid to memory" (179). Although Irwin turns to

the "radical discontinuities in history," the supplemental

keeping of "the memory of that forgetting" opens onto grave

and haunting suspensions and ruptures any fantasy of constancy


and coherence by indicating its "large, unbridgeable gaps"

(179). Thus, at the limits of doubt and mourning, Poe's works

commemorate the ever-open discontinuities of context many

would prefer to forget; as Irwin reads it: "Self-recognition

is a reflected mirroring, a foreshadowed doubling, that allows

vision to turn back on itself and recognize its own state of

nonrecognition. to remember its own forgetfulness, to know

death" (182).

Although this conjecture on hypnogogic revery does not

operate as the focus of my dissertation and becomes relegated

to the background, this fusion of death, revery, and art

persists in powerfully influencing my readings.3 Struck by

the supremeness or the absoluteness of the novelty of the

element and materials of these strange reveries, Poe feels

that had he succeeded in conveying them, he could have forced

the world to acknowledge that he had "done an original thing"

(XVI 90).

The ideal in Poe's texts connects closely to the

imaginative. I argue that they function synonymously. In his

review of Thomas Moore's Alciphron: A Poem, Poe discriminates

between fancy and imagination by criticizing Coleridge's


"The fancy," says the author of the "Ancient Mariner" in
his Biographia Literaria, "the fancy combines, the
imagination creates." And this was intended, and has
been received, as a distinction. If so at all, it is one
without a difference; without even a difference of
degree. The fancy as nearly creates as the imagination;
and neither creates in any respect. All novel


conceptions are merely unusual combinations. The mind of
man can imagine nothing which has not really existed; and
this point is susceptible of the most positive
demonstration--see the Baron de Bielfeld, in his
"Premiers Traits de L'Erudition Universelle," 1767. It
will be said, perhaps, that we can imagine a griffin, and
that a griffin does not exist. Not the griffin
certainly, but its component parts. It is a mere
compendium of known limbs and features--of known
qualities. Thus with all which seems to be new--which
appears to be a creation of intellect. It is resoluble
into the old. The wildest and most vigorous effort of
mind cannot stand the test of this analysis.
We might make a distinction, of degree, between the
fancy and the imagination, in saying that the latter is
the former loftily employed. But experience proves this
distinction to be unsatisfactory. What we feel and know
to be fancy, will be found still only fanciful, whatever
be the theme which engages it. It retains its
idiosyncrasy under all circumstances. No subject exalts
it into the ideal. (X 61-62)

Both imagination and fancy combine the felt and the known into

novel arrangements and do not converse the impossible. All

alleged creations of originality or genius (allied to sui

genius) can resolve into collocations of old and known

contexts. Thus, little new or novel appears. However, Poe

suggests that some possibility for originality might occur at

the strange and dreamy limit of ideal imagination. To

underscore the ruined distinction, Poe asserts that the mind

of man can imagine nothing that has not already existed.

Analysis can supposedly resolve the components of alleged

creations. Although Poe finds the distinction between fancy

and imagination ultimately unsatisfactory, he keeps using the

terms in his tales. Later, in the review Poe identifies the

imaginative with the ideal and suggestive under-current in a


work and the fanciful with the transparent, perhaps, brilliant


In a footnote to his "Drake-Halleck" review Poe indicates

the negation that the imagination encounters by cautiously

likening the artist to god:

Imagination is, possibly in man, a lesser degree of
the creative power of God. What the Deity imagines, is,
but was not before. What man imagines, is, but was also.
The mind of man cannot imagine what is not. This latter
point may be demonstrated.--See Les Premiers Traits de
L'Erudition Universelle. par M. Le Baron de Bielfield,
1767. (VIII 283)

Although no matter of degree exists between fancy and

imagination, a matter of degree may exist between the

creations of god and man. God can perhaps imagine what was

not, but man can only imagine what was. What man imagines of

the unknown or hypothetical functions as a different,

contextual arrangement of the already known. Any fascination

with an original creativity ex nihilo appears perverse in

Poe's sense of the term, but the imagination may suggest or

hint at the negative through an arrangement of known elements.

Persistently, Poe's texts limit man from encountering or

reaching the negation of nothing.

Poe's imagination depends on his notion of the ideal and

also capacitates a doubled reading. In one sense it

recuperates the spiritual and mystical values of the social

context in which Poe finds himself situated. In a different

sense it connects to the unconvertible limit of impossibility.


Not mutually inconsistent, these senses merge in Poe's

development of hypnogogic reveries and dreams.

The most frequently cited source for Poe's first sense of

the ideal comes from his review of Alciphron by Moore. Poe

situates the ideal by claiming that "the just distinction

between the fancy and the imagination" lies within the mystic

as employed by some German critics (X 65):

It is applied by them to that class of compositions in
which there lies beneath the transparent upper current of
meaning an under or suggestive one. What we vaguely term
the moral of any sentiment is its mystic or secondary
expression. It has the vast force of an accompaniment in
music. It vivifies the air; that spiritualizes the
fanciful conception, and lifts it into the ideal. (X 65)

Thus, as the moral of any sentiment, the secondary expression

of the mystic might convey a fanciful composition into the

ideal, a transparent conception into the suggestive.

Referring to Shelley's "The Sensitive Plant" and De La Motte

Foque's Undine, Poe affirms that "These two latter poems (for

we call them both such) are the finest possible examples of

the purely ideal" (X 66). That his suggestion of the negative

also seems to approach an abyssal absence or ghostly void, as

well as perfection, does not always register. Poe continues:

There is little of fancy here, and everything of
imagination. With each note of the lyre is heard a
ghostly, not always a distinct, but an august and soul-
exciting echo. In every glimpse of beauty presented, we
catch, through long and wild vistas, dim bewildering
visions of a far more ethereal beauty beyond. But not so
in poems which the world has always persisted in terming
fanciful. Here the upper is often brilliant and
beautiful; but then men feel that this upper is all. No
Naiad voice addresses them from below. The notes of the
air of the song do not tremble with the according tones
of the accompaniment. (X 66)


The ideal as an indistinct and haunted echo vivifies and

thrills the soul. Apparently, past the transparent and

through long, wild vistas, dim visions bewilder those who

approach the ideal, but this mystic ideal always seems to

accompany fancy even though the ethereal beauty beyond causes

its surface to tremble. Thus the fancy gets identified with

the transparency of meaning and the ideal imagination with the

suggestive and moral. This ethereal beauty remains

suggestively unspecified.

From the reviews of the novels, George Balcombe and Night

and Morning, a less frequently cited passage focuses on the

negativity of the ideal:

Original characters, so-called, can only be critically
praised as such, either when presenting qualities known
in real life, but never before depicted, (a combination
nearly impossible) or when presenting qualities (moral,
or physical, or both) which although unknown, or even
known to be hypothetical, are so skillfully adapted to
the circumstances which surround them, that our sense of
fitness is not offended, and we find ourselves seeking a
reason why these things might not have been, which we are
still satisfied are not. The later species of
originality appertains to the loftier regions of the
Ideal. (IX 261-62)

Thus, one fabricates the ideal from things that one can be

satisfied are not. Having abandoned rational consistency, as

seen for example in his handling of the perverse, Poe can

maintain that "The mind of man cannot imagine what is not"

(VIII 283) and also remain satisfied that some things "are

not." In compositions one can draw these ideal things from

the hypothetical or unknown by puzzling on the possible

reasons why such things might not have been. While the


imaginative can subsume this ideal, this passage stresses the

mystic less and a relation to the absent and negation more.

The search for reasons why such things might not have been

separates an unreified absence into possibilities of the lost.

Sensitized to loss, the possibilities of doubt and grief can

get arranged so as to become indistinct toward a negativity

seemingly without end. This search borders on the possible

which is not. Originality becomes virtually impossible in

such a system, and thus the reference to originality remains

alleged or so-called only. These passages support a less

transcendent notion of the ideal more closely aligned with the

absent in Poe's works. Although Poe admits that no adequate

proof or demonstration marks the ultimate difference between

imagination and fancy, he keeps the terms because he

intuitively feels and knows the difference. This intuition

might well stem from an appreciation of the suggestiveness of

the negative as articulated through emotional mourning and

intellectual skepticism. Designed for readers, whether

credible or incredible, this double idealism operates

aesthetically or imaginatively.

Concerning the aesthetic possibilities of the fancied

attempt to embody loss into words, Poe records the process for

displacing the passions of mourning into poetry in a review of

some works by Mrs. Amelia Welby:

Mrs. Welby's theme is, therefore, radically faulty so far
as originality is concerned;--but of common themes, it is
one of the very best among the class passionate. True
passion is prosaic--homely. Any strong mental emotion


stimulates all the mental faculties; thus grief the
imagination:--but in proportion as the effect is
strengthened, the cause surceases. The excited fancy
triumphs--the grief is subdued--chastened,--is no longer
grief. In this mood we are poetic, and it is clear that
a poem now written will be poetic in the exact ratio of
its dispassion. A passionate poem is a contradiction in
terms. (XVI 56)

Commingling fancy and imagination, this process converts the

familiar, passionate, prosaic, and homely into the strange,

dispassionate, poetic, and unhomely. The passionate endeavor

to strengthen the impressions of loss ceases with the

discontinuation of the endeavor. Then, loss may get written

into the poem. Deceptively, the fabric of fancy seems to

triumph by fulfilling its conception or adding the finishing

strokes to the idea of elegiac loss. Registering on the

dispassionate poetic object, the endeavor seems doubly to

convey the impossibility of loss, both as a fancied

recuperation of proper social reassurances of the ultimate

continuation of the soul and as a mortal cessation of thought

at attempting to conceive the impossible. Like Freud's

uncanny, a strange loss or mourning haunts the objects of

displacement or sublimation unless fancy comes, almost

magically, to claim a chaste and proper triumph over grief.

Underscoring the strange problems of conceptualization, this

aesthetics of loss typifies Poe's creative processes, an

imaginative process based on the suggestiveness of the


Pursuing this dubious creative process seems to bring the

artist back to the mental emotion he never left, melancholic


grief. In "The Philosophy of Composition," striving after

ideal poetic beauty, Poe touches upon what he feels and thinks

demonstrates the most supreme subject in keeping with his

theory of composition:

Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or
perfection, at all points, I asked myself--"Of all
melancholy topics, what, according, to the universal
understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?" Death
--was the obvious reply. "And when," I said, "is the
most melancholy of topics most poetical?" From what I
have already explained at some length, the answer, here
also, is obvious--"When it most closely allies itself to
Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is,
unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world--and
equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for
such topic are those of a bereaved lover." (XIV 201)

Although this combination of beauty and death appears as a

common topos, the specifics of the inferences do not seem

obvious without the context of Poe's feelings and thoughts

about beloved loss. As a response to the impossibility of

conveying absence and the tendencies toward doubt and

mourning, the dreamy conversion from the shadows of "Mournful

and Never-ending Remembrance" into an aesthetic resounds

through most of the reflective doublings and echoes of Poe's

art (XIV 208). These reflective losses accompany the

questioning feelings and doubts of the bereaved mourner. The

pursuit of melancholic beauty intellectually and emotionally

displaces the impossibility of conveying the imperceptible

disappearance of the beloved through the sensitive dreams of

fancy and imagination.

Following the directions these intellectual and emotional

dilemmas take, an extended example emerges in Eureka as Poe


discusses infinity in terms of its alleged origin, the

theological First Cause which "is made to support now Finity

and now Infinity" (XVI 202). His intuitive tendencies toward

a faith in a poetic and aesthetic divine heart, which upholds

our own, reflect a response to this predicament (XVI 311).

Accepting a theological distinction prompted by skepticism,

Poe differentiates between faith and intellectual belief:

We believe in a God. We may or may not believe in finite
or in infinite space; but our belief, in such cases, is
more properly designated as faith, and is a matter quite
distinct from that belief proper--from that intellectual
belief--which presupposes the mental conception. (XVI

Eureka's cosmology stretches a presupposed intellectual belief

in astronomy into a poetic and intuitive faith about the

universe. Note also the plural pronoun which, while including

the poetic narrator himself, unspecifically suspends the group

referred to between some group of believers which may or may

not include the reader. As shown, some intellectual beliefs

lead to conceptual impossibility. Apart from claims of fact

or fiction, his intuitive and poetic treatment of context

remains closer to faith than belief.

Thus, the logic of Poe's works persistently attempts to

circulate around losses of doubt and mourning. These

different losses effect and affect the trust needed for faith

and belief. The memorial effects of these losses appear in

relations, human bodies, feelings, thoughts, ideas, and

languages, and in an additional sense, these losses appear in

Poe's aesthetic theories and creative efforts. As a haunting


suspension, his logic works between losses critically on the

culturally valued proper, property, and whatever one might

think one "has." Insofar as, through its reflections, a

reading discounts or eludes an attempt to accept these losses,

this logic implies problems of constancy, coherence, and

consistency for readers and readings. In its reflective

search for support, reading mirrors the readers' acceptance

and resistances to loss. Aesthetically, these suggestions of

negativity emphasize the structures of intellectual doubt and

emotional mourning embodied within Poe's stories.

A Reading of Dilemmas

I know I am writing nonsense, but then you
must forgive me for the very reason that I
know it.
--Edgar Allan Poe, "Sheppard Lee"

Poe had many traumatic encounters with death and absence.

Biographies yield a litany of lost loves: his father at 21

months (David Poe vanished around this time for unknown

reasons); critically, his mother at 35 months; the beloved

mother of a friend at 15 years; his motherly protector at 20

years; his brother at 22; his fatherly "protector" at 25; and

his beloved wife at 38.4 Undoubtably, these final

separations, often followed by periods of abuse, traumatically

influenced him. Presumably, the commonplace of Poe's


fascination with death centers around such personal events,

but as a college-educated and culturally-engaged critic, Poe

also registers these sorrows as significant sociological,

psychological, and philosophic indicators of loss through his

writings. These emotional and intellectual bereavements

disturb his sense of trust and control, and reflecting more

general cultural difficulties, these oral and anal

developmental problems find elaboration in his works.

Explicitly, in Visionary Compacts Donald Pease

articulates a common response to Poe's critical attitude:

According to the psychic bargain struck in most works of
mourning, the mourner agrees to let go of the person
mourned in exchange for a memory. Referential language,
insofar as it presupposes the absence of the person from
the word representing this person, socializes separation.
But Poe's writings do not agree with this substitution.
Representational language performs a necessary cultural
task. It permits a separation from other persons that
results in individuals. Representations permit persons
to confirm their independence from one another by
displacing one another's presence with words that make
actual presence unnecessary. In Poe's works, however,
words disintegrate into letters, sheer material
impressions bereft of their power to represent. Poe
thereby breaks the verbal contract constitutive of a
culture of individuals. In the process of writing, he
produces words without the power to refer and persons
without the power to reflect and thereby empties persons
and characters out of the actual world and into a world
of memory. Instead of establishing a cultural contract
with the world, Poe destroys the grounds upon which all
other cultural contracts base their claims, leaving only
the faculty of perversity in the wake of this
dissolution. (187-88)

Although it remains unclear as to whose pragmatic economy of

exchange warrants this exchange of a person for a memory and

how the representational recognition of an individual's actual

presence might function without memory, Pease seems to respond


to the critique of Poe's doubts by regarding them as perverse,

disintegrating, dissolving, and emptying in relation to his

notion of the social contract. In order to prove memory's

incompatibility with the world, Pease sees Poe replacing

"characters capable of being preserved as persons in memory

with doubles" (188).

In keeping with the company of many marginally canonized

authors, Poe's addictions and obsessions serve as much to

highlight symptoms of larger social tensions, as to disqualify

his work from serious academic consideration. Many

biographies and most critical studies speculate excessively on

these improprieties and gloss over the more serious cultural

implications of Poe's losses. Instead of directly joining

these conjectures, I will try to read closely three tales of

deaths) in relation to Poe's cosmology and criticism in order

to tie down to his texts some psychological and philosophic

consequences of Poe's cultural and artistic views of mourning

and doubt.

This technique places in different perspectives many of

the emotionally charged allegations of debauchery, madness,

and impropriety that usually accompany critical and

biographical readings. Due to their own agendas, such

readings often obscure the culturally significant points and

details embodied in the ways that Poe's texts try to address

the dilemmas of loss and mourning.


This dissertation will assume that if anything appears

certain, it remains the inevitability of death for each of

us.5 Since it seems impossible for each of us to know or

experience our own death, this impossible limit for conception

and feeling remains our only certainty. This unknowable verge

engages powerful philosophic and psychological forces and

implications that structurally unsettle any attempt to

construct an ultimately consistent and coherent subject or

meaning. Poe's works encounter these limits to distinctness

and reconcilability through mourning and doubt.

My thesis both does not and does make a difference.

Hardly original, novel, or unique, it changes neither the

forces or values at large and in general. In this sense it

makes no difference at all. If it makes a difference, that

difference stems from the implications of subtracting the

impossibility of ultimate conception from the nonsensible,

proper ideals and attending to what remains: ghost effects and

the suspensions of the between. Doubtfully, it begins to

grieve the loss of the coherence and consistency of the same

and, from indistinct ruins, to enfold an emergent and

melancholy similarity, the simulacrum. Ghastfully, it begins

to question the cherished constancy of the proper identity

which we believe that we can fundamentally have and, from

conceptual abortion, to adapt to an inherited necromancy. The

obviousness of the ghostly suspension of conception and

perception making an inherited difference almost insures that


it will remain overlooked, for as Poe's Dupin claims:

"'Perhaps the mystery is a little too plain'" (VI 29). Most

important, my argument recalls difference (dis + ferre) in

terms of an opposition to bearing or carrying except as a

phantasm, a fancy, or an imagination. Thus, this thesis makes

a difference with difference.

Derived from this inherited difference without and with

a difference, Poe's texts mark the ghosts of mourning and the

between of doubt. Attempting to grapple with an indistinct

irreconcilability, the phantasmic duplications of memories and

dreams embody and reflect the uncertain dilemmas of ultimately

unfounded conceptions and perceptions, feelings and thoughts.

Prompted by Poe's texts, my first chapter considers several

psychoanalytic theories of mourning and/or melancholia to help

explicate some structural effects of oral distrust and

contrast Poe's and psychoanalysis's treatments of memory.

Drawing on Richard Popkin's notion of fideistic skepticism, my

second chapter looks at Poe's familiarity with skeptical

writers and some literary studies attending to his doubts.

Based on Poe's pantheistic intuition that the fancy of

material observation or natural philosophy might increase

human morality by analogy, mourning and doubt appear as topoi

that, depending on a responsive reader's identifications,

suggest ethical responsibilities. Thus, "The Fall of the

House of Usher" illustrates the ways ghost effects and

suspensions might effect reader identification, and then using


this reader identification, "Morella" and "Eleonora" depict

the affective consequences of the characters' contrasting

tendencies toward cryptic concentrations and necrophiliac

diffusions. Commingling resistant closeness and accepting

openness, reflection and embodiment become violent in excess.

The works of J. Gerald Kennedy suggest that the pursuit

of Abraham and Torok's approach to Poe's mourning might

benefit the field of Poe studies, and with luck, several such

works shall appear shortly.6 These studies tend to regard

mourning and its anasemic effects on language. By helping

provide a structure for the memories of an encrypted loss

around the disappearance that functions both as a secret and

as a resolution to the tensions between incorporation and

introjection, the psychoanalysts' theories interest some Poe

scholars. The works of G. R. Thompson, Stanley Cavell, and,

more recently, Joan Dayan approach Poe through notions from

the history of ideas, and as readers they have detected a

melancholy or bitter skepticism in Poe's texts.7 Here, his

emotional and intellectual predicament reflects the loss of

ideals and rational constancy.

These writers have acknowledged the intellectual or

philosophic and the emotional or psychoanalytic impacts of

loss on Poe's writings. Skepticism and psychoanalysis help

structure these analyses and considerations of doubt and

mourning in Poe's work because they provide systematic and

discursive structures with which to approach the (con)textual


issues of loss. To help the reader better appreciate the

contexts of mourning and skepticism, the first two chapters

provide the backgrounds relevant to this reading of Poe.

Derived from the memories and the architectonics of

landscapes and buildings, the limited narrative viewpoints

engage the tensions between introjection and incorporation and

between skepticism and idealism in "The Fall of the House of

Usher," "Morella," and "Eleonora." The haunted and

excessively violent meanings of these texts have philosophic

and psychological implications, especially some moral and

ethical issues. These particular tales appear because each

narrator contributes a critically different viewpoint by

exemplifying a range of the intellectual and emotional

reactions to doubt and the death of a beloved.

As developed above, a similarity between the

discontinuation of an endeavor and an attempt toward an idea

in the face of impossibility of attainment marks the emotional

and intellectual developments in most of Poe's imaginative

works. Each of Poe's three tales situates and structures the

effects of this break or discontinuity differently. Stemming

from conceptions and perceptions heterogeneously mediated, a

fog of impossibility always circulates around the mystery or

secret of shadows and death. This mysterious absence

connected to memorial reveries or dreams stimulates the

narrator's imaginative or fanciful participation or

witnessing. Marked by dysfunction, a mysterious criminality


accompanies the always excessive violence of any endeavor.

Strange and ghastly dislocations or migrations from a domicile

stimulate selectively the emotional and intellectual

flexibilities of memory. Thus mirrored through the selective

architectonics of a tale, the memories of the narrator and the

reader's reflections collude and collaborate as ruined

attempts to converse the impossible, to reach the ideal secret

of death. As such, the endeavor fails, but the attempt leaves

discernable structural effects. This attempt registers on the

narrator's viewpoint as suggested by James W. Gargano in his

essay "The Question of Poe's Narrators":

Poe's narrators should not be construed as his
mouthpieces; instead, they should be regarded as
expressing, in "charged" language indicative of their own
internal disturbances, their own peculiarly nightmarish
visions. Poe, I contend, is conscious of the
abnormalities of his narrators and does not condone the
intellectual ruses through which they strive, only too
earnestly, to justify themselves. (27)

Although the question of Poe's normality, coherence, or sanity

remains far from resolved, his "wildly incoherent" narrators'

viewpoints reflect the inconsistent effects of their own

endeavors to establish a certainty in the face of the

impossibility of death. The selections from the criticisms

indicate that Poe, at least, notes some of the impossibilities

of conception that his narrators articulate and seem to


Jonathan Auerbach's The Romance of Failure sees the early

Poe as intuiting that:


writing is a self-sustaining form of discourse which
acquires currency apart from the person or authority of
the writer, who threatens to fade into obscurity as soon
as his work enters the public domain. Once the author
expresses himself in public, his written identity becomes
common property, subject to ceaseless duplication and
appropriation. (52)

Moreover, with Poe's tendency to conflate cause and effect,

the artist and the artistic product, Auerbach finds that "Poe

converts the process of writing into reading: the author must

assume the role of his reader in order to foresee the temporal

outcome of his as yet uncreated creation" (39). In order to

foresee any outcome sensitively, the author adopts the

appropriations and duplications of many readers.

Struggling with incompleteness and imperfection, a

writer/reader appears dumb before the unfounded and theme-

filled context, as Poe claims in Marginalia, "first from not

knowing how to begin, where there seems eternally beginning

behind beginning, and secondly from perceiving his true end at

so infinite a distance" (XVI 127). Lost to absolute meaning,

this working with contextuality accounts for Auerbach's

observation that "Poe seems more interested in systematically

exploring the process of composing, or decomposing, than he is

in arriving at any particular goal that thought may tend

toward" (36). If so, a similar contextuality affects and

effects interpretative readings.

In "Edgar Allan Poe: The Error of Reading and the Reading

of Error," Joseph G. Kronick finds that "To read Poe is

to confound the familiar with the hidden" because Poe analyzes


rather than presents his own ingenuity for interpretation

(26). Taking analysis as exposing the obvious, "what lies in

plain view--that is the impenetrability of the familiar" (26),

Kronick notes two ways of effecting an interpretation, one

tending toward materiality and the second toward the psychic.

As fantasies of contextual transcendence, both become "a

product of the error of profundity, the confusion of

significance with depth" (25). He explains this narcissism of

interpretation: "In one case, the reader confounds Poe's texts

with their effects, and in the other, the reader confounds the

effects with his own ingenious interpretation" (25). These

double tendencies help situate a reader's identifications. In

describing what he takes as Roderick Usher's "paranoia,"

Auerbach explains what might well apply to the reader's

doubling and splitting in striving to grasp the excess of

textual meaning:

The subject projects his own meaning onto a mysterious
world to recover a transcendent text, or a text that
seems to escape transcendence. Conscious of his own
interpretative designs, the subject splits in two,
generating a second self mocking the attempt to
comprehend the whole. Self-censorship, in turn,
fuels the impulse to conceal loss and inadequacy by
discharging these feelings outside the self. The double
is killed and buried. Yet the urge to obliterate
self-consciousness only redoubles subjectivity, until the
isolated criminal is obliged to confess to another that
his flawed schemes are excited by his own inexpressible
imaginative desires, not God's. Breaking out of their
fabricated tombs, Poe's restless corpses testify to the
power of paranoia to galvanize the world into meaning.
However grotesque and distorted these paranoid monsters
may be, they seem preferable to the only other
alternative available in Poe's world, namely, objectless
ennui, a living death. (47)


With memory's necromancy, both restless corpses and living

deaths serve as the haunted and haunting basis for meanings.

Because the suspended self remains as strangely mysterious as

the external world in Poe, Auerbach's notions of otherness and

self-consciousness seem to assure a schematic certainty

themselves, but without even evoking the hauntings of memory,

Auerbach's restless corpses suggest the doubled ghost effects

of meaning. However, I suggest, his polarization into

paranoia and ennui mark off excessive limits between which, in

Poe's texts, worlds of suggestive possibilities move.

Nevertheless, the demand for certain interpretative readings

in the face of an unfounded and unsettled context defers to

recuperative attempts: thus, cultural and social contracts,

psychoanalytic regressions to the womb, searches for

linguistic origins, and so on.

Perhaps longing for an assuring objectivity, Auerbach

regards this strange confusion of (con)textuality as "a kind

of paralyzing subjectivity that makes it impossible to

distinguish between self and other, as if all other persons

were simply displaced versions of an inescapable 'I'" (26).

Critically, Poe might well agree, but insist that depicted

paralysis and ennui do not remain the only options. Recalling

the reader to an analysis of the dead and lost, ratherhr than

condescending to Poe's blind narrators, or even blaming Poe

for impersonating them," Auerbach directs attention to the

suspended narrative structure: "we need to explore how the


first person, held in suspension between Poe and the narrated

self, manages to construe the narrative" (26). Conflating the

absences of the author, the narrator, and the narrated, the

reader arranges the architectonic structures that

(con)textually reflect the reader's own inheritance of ghostly


Thus as examples, these narrative memorials appear

textually refined by reflective moments of uncertainty and

forgetting and by inconsistencies in architectural and

landscape features and enclosures that might conceal precious

bodies or the images of precious bodies. Dwelling dreamily on

these uncertainties and inconsistencies of retention, how

survivors keep the departed, might indicate for the reflective

reader a suspension of assurance and a relaxation of the

processes of resistance as s/he looks down into the aesthetic

inscription of loss. Reflecting on reading the embodied text,

through networks of identifications, the reader might also

regard the contextual structures of writing as suspended and

mournfully lost.

Chapters three and four look at the mournful and doubtful

disturbances as the narrators regard them. Admitting problems

with memory, each narrative point of view recounts or reads

backwards into the fascinating and disturbing events that

haunt and perplex each with an unanswered secret or mystery.

Mirroring the narrator's resistance or acquiescence to the

secret, each narrative tries to make sense of the excessive


dilemmas of the mysterious events. Unsatisfied with his

account of the double deaths of Roderick and Madeline Usher,

the superstition-infected narrator of "The Fall of the House

of Usher" tries to resolve the fascinating decay into death by

appealing to medical notions of madness, but he seems to feel

the inadequacy of such scientific explanations in the face of

the uncertain boundaries of death and its haunting aftermath.

Tracing the woman's emergent corpus from its cryptic vault,

the third chapter considers the men's contrasting tendencies

and involvements, the contextual emergences of ghost meanings,

and the reader's identifications. Focusing on the excessive

violence of the ghostly and suspended remainder, the fourth

chapter compares dilemmas of the intellectual fear of

"Morella" with the emotional hope of "Eleonora." The

oppressed narrator of "Morella" deals with the loss of his

learned wife and beloved daughter. Severely depressed, he

remains by the tale's end obsessively haunted by Morella's

strange image. Revealed through the too perfect identity

between mother and child, the answer to his questions about

that personal identity "which at death is or is not lost

forever" seems gradually and fatefully displaced by some

enkindled demon and/or fiend within that threatens his own

sameness of identity (II 29). The more hopeful narrator of

"Eleonora" tries to accept the mournful loss of his innocent

and artless cousin. Reflected in his written remembrances of

her, his faithful acceptance opens certainty and doubt to the


unsettling effects of a strange and dreamy inheritance and

permits him to survive, although abjectly, with an angelic

love. Taken as always doubled variants dealing with fatal

loss and doubt, these tales seem to provide aesthetic and

ethical insights into Poe's narrative understandings of the

haunting excesses of the remainder. While structurally marked

by peculiarities in handling the so-called proper mourning,

these tales suggest a uniquely contemporary promise for

attempting to deal with the violent dilemmas of mourning,

doubt, uncertainty, and loss.

The notion that Poe banned all morals from his works

remains as mistaken as ever. Engaging the intellectual

beliefs that presuppose mental conceptions, Poe in "The Poetic

Principle" contingently divides "with a sufficient

distinction" what he takes as the offices of the three mental

realms: the intellect, the taste, and the moral sense (XIV

273). Placing taste in the middle, Poe admits their close

association, and he asserts that taste "holds intimate

relations with either extreme; but from the Moral Sense is

separated by so faint a difference that Aristotle has not

hesitated to place some of its operations among the virtues

themselves" (XIV 272-73). Thus for Poe, only a faint

difference separates tastes from morals. While some who

regard Poe as a strict advocate of art for art's sake would

like to banish his works completely from the ethical stage,

his reluctance to go proves worrisome indeed. Redistributing


morals contextually and intuitively reflects an important part

of Poe's epistemological project.

Like the epic mania, Poe opposed "the heresy of the

Didactic," the explicitly dogmatic teaching of truth and

morals in art works (XIV 271). He could not finally separate

truth or morals from art. He states the problem:

It has been assumed, tacitly and avowedly, directly and
indirectly, that the ultimate object of all Poetry is
Truth. Every poem, it is said, should inculcate a moral;
and by this moral is the poetical merit of the work to be
adjudged. (XIV 271)

Adjudicating poetry strictly in ideological terms of truth or

morals misses the artistry of the work in favor of its

propagandistic or persuasive teaching. The unattainability of

any ultimate endeavor toward an ideal of taste or beauty

forces the poem to draw on different notions of truth and

morals. Stressing the dignity and nobility of the poem itself

and including himself as an American who patronizes and

develops "this happy idea," Poe admits that the soul's sense

of morality enters into poetic inscription:

We have taken it into our head that to write a poem
simply for the poem's sake, and to acknowledge such to
have been our design, would be to confess ourselves
radically wanting in the true Poetic dignity and force:--
but the simple fact is, that, would we but permit
ourselves to look into our own souls, we should
immediately there discover that under the sun there
neither exists or can exist any work more thoroughly
dignified--more supremely noble than this very poem--this
poem per se--this poem which is a poem and nothing more--
this poem written solely for the poem's sake. (XIV 271-

Supported by the sole-soul pun, the per se nothingness of the

poem's imaginative contexts suspended through layers of


haunting inheritances helps identify for its reflective reader

the force of his or her own dignity and nobility. Aesthetic

elements also function ethically. Not radically wanting in

moral insight, such a reflective poem constrains the reader to

take ethical responsibility for his/her own reading.

My thesis asserts that the loss of idealized objects,

such as an ideal or a loved one through the death, brings

incoherent and inconsistent effects that register on the

contextual articulations of sensations, feelings, thoughts,

and inspirations. Drawing on the shared legacies of faithful

losses and crypts, collusive readers try within the context of

unfounded memory to preserve their phantasmically strange

identifications. Ultimately, these spectral losses render

constancy and certainty strangely meaningless, but disturbed

and disturbing embodiments and reflections remain to engage

various values and forces. Circulating around death, mourning

and skepticism in Poe's texts offer structured insights into

the acceptance of loss or the resistance to loss that can ease

the inevitable disappropriations. Loss remains finally

unavoidable, but as many death studies indicate, various

treatments of this loss can make a contextual difference. In

different directions a similar pattern emerges for mourning

and the loss of ideals. In terms of mourning, these effects

appear through the tensions between introjective processes and

incorporative fantasies, in the phantom and haunting effects

of the resulting encryption, and by the consequent anasemic


redistribution. In terms of the ruins of concepts and

rational ideas, these effects appear through the tensions

between skeptical inquiry and ideal propositions, in

unsettling effects of suspending judgments and values, and by

the intuitive and aesthetic possibilities of contextual

redistributions. Memorials to a haunting suspension, Poe's

texts operate reflectively with and within these tensions,

effects, and redistributions.

I recognize the differences between the suspended

judgment of skepticism and the encrypted object of mourning,

yet the similarities of dealing with loss and absence in

various contexts, especially those of rational argument or

trusting rapport, strike"me as suggesting a therapeutic ethics

calling for a more careful and concerned approach to different

material embodiments. Suggested by Poe's pantheistic emphasis

on close material observation and his belief in the moral

powers of natural philosophy, his ethic of embodied effect

questions the values and forces that would inflict torment in

endeavoring to concentrate on the fantasy of a pure closure.

Additionally, a shared identification with traumas and the

missing fundamentally opens strangely haunted questions about

the status of identity and what we confidently think of as

ourselves and those different from us by reconsidering the

certainty of what we take as the "given" distinctions between

the factual and the fictional.


This loss of certainty, an assumed consistency or

coherence already in question, operates in tandem with

mourning. Just as doubt does not construct a positive,

rational argument, so too interminable mourning does not

arrive at a complete end. Opening wounds of distrust,

betrayal, and abandonment, these losses of constancy torment

the collaborative reader with seemingly endless possibilities

of unfaithfulnesses, infidelities, and disloyalties. Marking

and marked by the duplicity of the double and the con of

confidence, conviction, and conveyance, a convincing

duplication engages Poe's tales and his criticism and

cosmology with a difference. Shaking any ultimate basis for

confidence, the contextual endeavors to come to terms with

this unsettling cryptic death or suspended loss remain

disturbingly difficult, perhaps impossible. Violence and

perplexity await those who might appear to threaten the

cohesive certainties of those who with a forcefully imagined

purity resist the acceptance of loss.

These apparently disappropriating processes seem to imply

a loss even of commonly accepted notions of loss, almost as if

one never had what they dreamed or imagined that they had.

With this ultimately unfounded cosmology, even the

traditionally accepted functions of memory get thrown into

question. Expect resistance; even the persistent attempt to

approach or engage this assuring absence of an absence

reflects a strange and haunting resistance. When regarded

from the doubled points of view of skepticism and mourning and

considered as enveloping these dynamics and enveloped by these

dynamics, Poe's texts can receive a finer, more resolved,

appreciation from readers.


1. The notion of effect relates to something produced by a
cause or agent, a result, even if the cause and effect only
appear related. Extending to fancy and feigning, the notion
of affect relates to feelings and emotions, even though it may
also mean to produce an effect on. Thus while the senses of
the words commingle, affect suggests emotion and feeling, and
effect suggests the issue of effective force. In Eureka Poe
contrasts the human and divine constructions of adaptation:

in human constructions a particular cause has a
particular effect; a particular intention brings to pass
a particular object; but this is all; we see no
reciprocity. The effect does not re-act upon the cause;
the intention does not change relations with the object.
In Divine constructions the object is either design or
object as we choose to regard it--and we may take at any
time a cause for an effect, or the converse--so that we
can never absolutely decide which is which. (XVI 291-2)

For humans the ultimate determination of cause and effect
remains undecidable. The ingenuity of writers strives to
approach this pleasing reciprocity of adaptation by "so
arranging the incidents that we shall not be able to
determine, of any one of them, whether it depends from any one
or upholds it" (XVI 292). Such plot perfection seems "really,
or practically, unattainable" (XVI 292). This indeterminacy
of dependence and independence for human constructions
suspends any proper distinction between cause and effect or

2. The range of acceptance of the association of sleep and
death spans across idealism and skepticism. As suggested by
William M. Forrest in his Biblical Allusions in Poe (61), this
commonly held Christian notion finds expression in a lament by

"Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and
expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the
breasts, that I should suck? For then I should have lain
down and been quiet; I should have slept; then I should

have been at rest, with the kings and counselors of the
earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes
who had gold, who filled their houses with silver." (The
Oxford Annotated Bible Job 3: 11-15 615)

As John S. Hardt indicates in his "Doubts in the American
Gardens: Three Cases of Paradisal Skepticism" that looks at
"the lack of any standard by which to test one's perceptions,
the recurring confusion between dream and reality, the
frequent errors of rationalism, and the large part of human
experience which can only be called 'irrational'" in "The Fall
of the House of Usher" (258), even for those surviving
abortion and abandonment, this lamentable difficulty does not
vanish because of the "retreat from the paradisal ideal with
a recognition of limits in human knowledge" (249). See the
indented citation in endnote five for David Hume's skeptical
perception of death, sleep, and the nonexistence of personal

3. In addition to death and dream reveries, hypnosis, or
sleep-waking as Poe terms it, perhaps alluding to the
connection between imaginative fancies and hypnogogic
reveries, also fascinated him as an approach to trying to
conceptualize the impossible. Appearing as the main focus in
"Mesmeric Revelation" and "The Facts in the Case of M.
Valdemar," the latter tale denounced in a letter to Arch
Ramsay as a hoax, the riveting spiritual and material
possibilities of hypnosis get explored by Poe. In the
introduction to "Mesmeric Revelation" after denouncing those
who doubt the facts of mesmerism, despite its rationale, as
"mere doubters by profession--an unprofitable and disreputable
tribe," the mesmerist claims:

There can be no more absolute waste of time than the
attempt to prove, at the present day, that man, by mere
exercise of will, can so impress his fellow, as to cast
him into an abnormal condition, of which the phenomena
resemble very closely those of death, or at least
resemble them more nearly than they do the phenomena of
any other normal condition within our cognizance; that,
while in this state, the person so impressed employs only
with effort, and then feebly, the external organs of
sense, yet perceives, with keenly refined perception, and
through channels supposedly unknown, matters beyond the
scope of the physical organs; that moreover, his
intellectual faculties are wonderfully exalted and
invigorated; that his sympathies with the person so
impressing him are profound; and finally, that his
susceptibility to the impression increases with its
frequency, while, in the same proportion, the peculiar
phenomena elicited are more extended and more pronounced.
(V 241)

While Poe's position to mesmerism seems undecidable, the
possibility remains that as grief can stimulate the
imagination and hypnogogic reveries can produce fancies, so
too hypnotic rapport might serve as the fascination that
relates fancy to imagination, joins common sense to the
visionary, brings the enabler to the addict, and attracts the
lover to the beloved.

4. For all my readings in Poe's biographies Arthur Hobson
Quinn's Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography remains the most
generally informative and, if tediously detailed reading in
places, the best introduction. The death dates given in his
biography allow the computation of Poe's age when those around
him disappeared or died. According to Quinn, David Poe, Jr.,
simply vanishes when Poe was 21 months old. Ostrom's letters,
however, have Poe asserting that his mother and father died
within a few weeks of one another. No record of his father's
death date or any trace of him following his departure has
surfaced as of yet.
Kenneth Silverman's biography, Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and
Never-ending Remembrance, considers Poe's "intent imaginings
about death" (77). While his view of mourning might benefit
from more structurally rigorous studies on the psychological
effects of trauma, loss, and death, Silverman's focus on
memory and contradictory ambivalences begins a much needed
appreciation of the nuances of Poe's mourning:

Edgar's underlying denial of death, perhaps also helps to
explain his easy remolding and evasion of lesser truths,
and it gives particular poignancy to his often stated
preference for the far-off realms of dream and
imagination over reality. His simultaneous belief and
unbelief, finally, produces not only other beings and
landscapes at once living and dead, but such other
derivatives as images of things at once conscious and
unconscious, near and far, present and absent, lost and
inalienable, evoking opposed feelings of grief and joy,
despair and hope, loss and return, separation and union--
expressions of what he himself called his "innate love of
contradiction." (77)

5. As with most things, a controversy surrounds the
possibility or impossibility of experiencing death.
Undoubtably, one can sense, perceive, and experience dying or
an approach to death. Some of these sensations can become
articulated intelligibly to most users of a language although,
again, some question remains about how well the experience of
pain conveys to those not in similar pain (see Elaine Scarry's
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World).
Also undoubtably, one can perceive the effects of death
on another, but here the ambiguity of the "of" comes into

play. One can sense the effects of another's death, but not
the experience of death that another does or does not perceive
or conceive at the moment of the final approach toward death.
In short, to say that one experiences the death of another
does not claim one has had that experience of death, if such
an experience even seems attainable. Excepting certain mythic
cases, such as Inanna or Lazarus, none who have finally
experienced death have come back to articulate their
sensations or lack of sensations.
In "'My Death'" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul
Edwards questions the impossibility of imagining or conceiving
one's own death. He juxtaposes Freud's claim in "Thoughts for
the Times on War and Death," "'Our own death is unimaginable'"
(416) because we cannot eliminate ourselves as contextual
spectators when we think of our own deaths, with that of
Bertrand Russell from "What I Believe," "'When I die, I shall
rot and nothing of my ego will survive'" (416). Edwards
rightly questions the double sense in which Freud seems to use
the notion of death, for if we cannot imagine our own deaths,
then in a similar sense we should remain unable to imagine the
death of another. To think, imagine, or conceive of the
spectacle of the death of another or of ourselves does seem
possible if we imagine ourselves as objects and note that even
as observers we remain absent from the scene. Nevertheless,
we must still imagine ourselves when dead as observed by some
observer in order to erase ourselves from the scene. Except
as a fantasy, it seems impossible to sense or experience death
as perceived at its final moment by either another or
ourselves. Russell's view has many similarities to that put
forth by David Hume in his chapter "Of Personal Identity" for
his The Treatise of Human Nature when he writes:

I never can catch myself at any time without a
perception, and never can observe any thing but the
perception. When my perceptions are removed for any
time, as by sound sleep; so long am I sensible of myself,
and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my
perceptions removed by death, and could I neither think,
nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the
dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated,
nor do I conceive what is farther required to make me a
perfect non-entity. If any one upon serious and
unprejudic'd reflection, thinks he has a different notion
of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with
him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right
as well as I. (84)

While Russell relies somewhat objectively on a continuous
sense of the term ego past his own death for a sense of
identity and at the same time erases that sense of the term
ego, Hume claims that "As memory alone acquaints us with the
continuance and extent of this succession of perceptions, 'tis

to be considered, upon that account chiefly, as the source of
personal identity" (90). An observer who excludes himself
from the scene can imagine or conceive Russell's failure of
the ego to survive and Hume's removal of perceptions that
attends the rotting or dissolution of the body at death, but
at the same time the observer, retains some traces of the
continuous sense of the word and/or of the memory under
erasure in order to make the claim articulable. Poe might
well claim that the articulation marks the cessation or
interruption of the implications of the thought of one's own
death. The thought of one's own death remains impossible for
him. In a letter to Arch Ramsay Poe denounces the in articulo
mortis, "'I am dead'" (VI 163), of his character, M. Valdemar:
"Hoax is precisely the word suited to M. Valdemar's case.
. Some few persona believe it--but I do not--and don't
you" (Ostrom 2 337). The scene of death imagined or conceived
remains unsensed or unexperienced as the dead would or might
experience it. Marked by a certain uncertainty, this sensing
of death seems impossible because of the deceased absence of
the perceiving observer. For an observer there appears in
language nothing problematic about conceiving or imagining a
scene that excludes the conceiver or imaginer. However, this
possibility assumes the continuity of some sense of words
after the death of the one who utters them. Such an absence
seems required in order for the reference of language to
function. If one can possibly think about the death of
another, its certain uncertainty, then in an approximately
similar sense one can think about the death of oneself, but no
mere mortal can sense or conceptualize the radical difference
of death and finally articulate that alterity. Paradoxically,
the seeming absence of death makes possible the transcendental
effects of articulation and ruptures the possibilities of
ultimately articulating transcendental values.

6. In Poe. Death, and the Life of Writing, Kennedy observes
that "Poe's representation of the tomb as an object of both
repression and fixation curiously anticipates the theory of
'cryptonomy' elaborated by Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok"
and interests as "figuring the contradictions of bereavement"

7. Of all Poe scholars, G. R. Thompson has provided the best
view of Poe's mournful skepticism in general. I remain
indebted to his suggestive leads. Focusing on the ironic
transcendence of the Romantic German ironists, Thompson fails
to appreciate how rarely Poe's writings mention transcendence
and how Poe tends to employ parody and hoax, rather than
irony. The irony Poe does use remains tinted with a dark
bitterness. Nevertheless, acknowledging the importance of
skepticism and melancholia in Poe's work, Thompson's ground-
breaking views have proven invaluable for my work, much of
which takes its lead from his observations. Berating scholars

for not showing the importance of skepticism in Poe's works,
in "Unity, Death, and Nothingness--Poe's 'Romantic
Skepticism'" Thompson stresses Eureka's equation of material
nothingness with the spiritual deity: "These remarks have
never been emphasized by critics of Poe's thought, with the
result that the implicit melancholy skepticism of the essay
has never been seriously considered" (298). However, unlike
Thompson, I claim that instead of joining the Romantic
aesthetic of the artist as God, Poe recognized the limits of
the artist and the incomprehensibility of God in the face of
inevitable loss. In Poe's Fiction: Romantic Irony in the
Gothic Tales, Thompson recognizes that Poe's oscillating
position presents an "ambivalent skepticism, neither quite
theistic nor quite atheistic" (191) and identifies the
tensions in Poe's writings: "In Poe's tales, we feel a
skeptical tension between disorder and hope, madness and
rationality, uncertainty and knowledge, despair and hope. It
is this that animates all of Poe's writings" (194). My
divergence from Thompson does not deny his main point, that
the Romantic German ironists, particularly Schelling, also
influenced by skepticism, had an important impact on Poe's
writing. Undoubtably and interestingly, they did. Again as
a ground-breaking endeavor, Thompson's work awaits further
studies on German skepticism and such contributions as
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy's The Literary
Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism.
Counterbalanced by a persistently skeptical critique, Poe's
guesses and intuitive attempts to derive from nebulous matter
those geometrical, mathematical, and scientific principles
that might serve to convince readers by analogy of a moral
spirit find an assurance in the inevitability of death and its
attendant losses. This unsettling assurance does not place
Poe's texts smugly in the Romantic genre of negative
possibility. Strangely unsettling, Poe's suggestive
negativity functions in a less certain context. Even before
feeling and thinking emerge as appropriative processes, with
certainty loss assures that mourning shall surround and
permeate everything with its nothingness and guarantees the
abortion of conception.


[B]eing young and dipt in folly
I fell in love with melancholy,
And used to throw my earthly rest
And quiet all away in jest--
I could not love except where Death
Was mingling his with Beauty's breath--
Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny
Were stalking between her and me.
--Edgar Allan Poe, "Romance"

I would comfort you--soothe you--tranquillize you.
My love--my faith--should instil into your bosom a
preternatural calm. You would rest from care--from
all worldly agitation. You would get better, and
finally well. And if not, Helen,--if not--if you
died--then at least would I clasp your dear hand in
death, and willingly--oh, joyfully--joyfully--
joyfully--go down with you into the night of the
--Edgar Allan Poe, a letter to Sarah Whitman

With the impossibility of attaining an ultimate

conception or ideal, some implications of loss in relation to

psychoanalytic affects and effects call for attention. In

order to help situate these emotions in the tales, the

relevant theoretical backgrounds for mourning as responses to

loss need a general review.

Although afflicted with cultural and gender bias, to

date, Freud's heroic efforts to resolve the apparent

differences of human personalities remain among the most

outstanding. Freud's theory of mourning as an oral reaction


to the loss of any trusted or idealized object and Karl

Abraham's and Melanie Klein's subsequent treatments of the

topic contribute particular emphases for understanding loss

and mourning and suggest productive ways of reading Poe's

texts. Stemming from Freud's insights, the approaches to

mourning developed by John Bowlby, Vamik Volkan, and Jacques

Lacan remain as productive, if as hampered in different ways

by their master's scientific positivism. Developed from the

classical psychoanalytic notions of incorporation and

introjection, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok's post-

phenomenological theories of mourning, specifically encryption

and its ghost effects on language, anasemia, add a better

structural resolution to the dynamics of loss reflected in

Poe's texts and prepare for the application of the ghost

effects found in the tales. Not the only or, indeed, the best

way to approach Poe's writings, the tactical application of

these psychoanalytic notions of oral dependency yields the

most detailed structural framework for theoretically following

and understanding the affective possibilities of mourning in

Poe's texts. Under a close reading, Poe's tales could

contribute to an improved psychoanalytic approach to mourning,

an improvement based on his fideistic skepticism.

Statements from Poe's letters about the deaths of his

parents and wife indicate his memories of the effects of his

losses and help situate his views in relation to the theories

of psychoanalysis. Assessing Marie Bonaparte's view of Poe's


attachments to the dead and Nicolas Abraham's reading of Poe's

"The Raven," I accept their notions of an oral disturbance

leading to necrophilia, but question the genuine assurances of

their hypotheses about the unconscious and memory, inherited

from Freud. At once positive and nebulous, Freud's

theoretically assumed constancy of memory and the unconscious

helps situate the psychoanalytic resistances to loss and

mourning. Poe's questioning of the foggy

incomprehensibilities and discontinuities of the subject's

self-cognizance contrasts with many analysts' apparently

positivistic idealizations of the subject's identity. These

views concerning mourning, loss, and negation allow my

analysis to develop a collaboration of notions from

psychoanalysis and skepticism in order to explicate better the

structure of Poe's textual treatment of emotional and

intellectual loss.

Mourning in Freud, Abraham, and Klein

In "Mourning and Melancholia," Freud observes that

mourningig is regularly the reaction to the loss of a loved

person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the

place of one" (XIV 243). Thus, as Freud views it, mourning

does not refer just to the loss of an idealized person, but to

the loss of any abstract idealization. This reaction, the

economic "work" of mourning, involves "reality" testing to

confirm that the ideal loved one who seemed so constant no


longer survives, a slow and painful withdrawing through a

process termed hypercathexis of all the libidinal attachments

including memories and hopes bound to the object, and, at

last, a freeing and uninhibiting of the ego. The withdrawal

of all attachments, including memories, fears, and hopes, of

deeply lost loves and ideals seems like an interminable task

that calls for the ego to abandon what it takes as the most

precious parts of itself. The expenditure of energy "draws

attention to the fact that we do not even know the economic

means by which mourning carries out its task" (255) but

usually appears to get accomplished within a year or so. Even

Freud seems perplexed as to precisely how this task achieves

completion. In melancholia the libido regresses onto the ego

and, through a narcissistic identification between the ego and

the lost object, remains there. The melancholic refuses to

give up the precious loss. The processes of mourning and

melancholia bear resemblances: "the ego, confronted as it were

with the question whether it shall share this fate, is

persuaded by the sum of the narcissistic satisfactions it

derives from being alive to sever its attachment to the object

that has been abolished" (255). The mourner gives up the loss

and resumes the quest for narcissistic satisfactions. Thus,

whether to sever identifications or remain identified with the

absent object of beloved constancy determines the difference

between mourning and melancholia and characterizes the

different narcissisms of the subjects. In melancholia, the


conflict in the ego, split between the object-identified ego

and the ego's critical ability, substitutes for mourning's

struggles around the lost object. Holding on to the memories

of the lost ideal as if enduring, the depressed melancholic

begins to oscillate between the hope of their survival and the

fear of their disappearance. According to Freud, in

melancholia the oral identification regresses toward

cannibalism. The disturbance of trust in the constancy of the

ideal object seems to trigger a problematic orality that marks

incorporative moments of eating and attitudes toward food and

drink in Poe's texts. Also, under the influence of

ambivalence toward the object, the melancholic's erotic

cathexis joins through the ego's criticism to sadism, moral

dissatisfaction, and concerns about inferiority and poverty.

This conjunction counterbalances the idealized dependence.

Blame or guilt concerning the loss might account for Poe's

peculiar relations to appropriate and inappropriate cultural

values and behaviors. While any projective classification of

Poe as a melancholic or a mourner must remain deferred,

perhaps indefinitely because of his complex relations to

absences of objects, both Karl Abraham and Melanie Klein

provide some additional insights in their elaborations on

Freud's theories.

Karl Abraham suggests that object love begins in the

encounters around control between the retentive anal-sadistic

stages of development and derives from earlier oral stages.


In mourning and loss, the griever reacts to the anal loss of

property by creating in memory a temporary oral introjection

of the loved one. Melancholia becomes an archaic form of

mourning in which severe ambivalences toward the object result

in radical libidinal disturbances. The melancholic holds

tenaciously on to the "temporary" oral introjection. These

complications of dependence and independence include oral

difficulties with passive sucking and the aggressive use of

teeth as well as anal problems with the control of property

and sadistic destruction. In mourning, Abraham claims,

whenhn the libidinal cathexis has been withdrawn from the

object, it is directed, as we know, to the ego, while at the

same time the object is introjected into the ego" (454).

Presumably, if this temporary oral introjection becomes lodged

as an image through its persistent memory, the inclusion might

appear as an incorporation. Specific factors in melancholia

include (1) a constitutional disposition, (2) a special oral

fixation, (3) a severe injury to infantile narcissism due to

successive disappointments in love, (4) the first setback in

love occurring before the oedipal wishes, and (5) repetitions

of the primary disappointments in later life.

Abraham notes that while the introjected can include both

the mother and the father, for the melancholic boy, these

disappointments usually center around the mother who becomes

associated with castration. The ego's introjected love object

becomes both a foundation for the subject's ego ideal or model


and the target of a merciless criticism directed at self-

reproach. The normative role of this notion of castration

surfaces when disappointment or the threat of loss seems to

threaten the subject's identity rather than appearing to

prepare the ego for the inevitability of subsequent losses.

At any rate, Abraham's ideas help situate the oral economy and

the various deaths of women and men in Poe's stories. The ego

ideal might help explain Poe's choice to pursue an artistic

career like his mother and father, rather than Mr. Allan's,

his almost guardian's, choice of law for him. Poe's merciless

self-criticism, in part, might help account for his

controlling insistence on close readings of works before

judging them and his occasional depreciation of his own works

before those he perceived as authorities.

Melanie Klein writes that a mourner

not only takes into himself (reincorporates) the person
whom he has just lost, but also reinstates his
internalized good objects (ultimately his loved parents),
who became part of his inner world from the earliest
stages. These too are felt to have gone under, to
be destroyed, whenever the loss of a loved person is
experienced. (353)

This loss of mourning reactivates what Klein terms the

infantile depressive position, those feelings and "reality"

testing that surround weaning (i.e., mourning the breast).

According to her, the child incorporates doubles (after Otto

Rank's notion) of the parents and "feels them to be live

people inside in the concrete way in which deep

unconscious phantasies are experienced" (345). Memory seems


to function within a reflective economy of such phantasmic

doublings. The infantile depressive position, the source of

mania and melancholia, includes feelings of persecution and of

sorrow and their respective resistant defenses of defiantly

destroying the persecutors violently or cunningly and of

wistful pining or longing. The idealized mother guards

against a dead or retaliating mother and against all bad

objects. She or rather her doubled incorporation represents

security and even life itself. Insecurities impede the

normative resolution of the infantile depressive position and

mourning. Depressive anxiety drives the ego to omnipotent and

violent phantasies to master the bad objects created by the

splitting of imagoes that results from ambivalence.

Idealization and denial operate as manic counterfunctions, but

the manic triumph stemming from the subject's omnipotence and

contempt interferes with inner security and efforts at

mourning. The guilt from the triumphant phantasies over

parents can cripple later therapeutic endeavors because

success and humiliation become connected through association.

The manic's large scale thinking defends against thoughts of

the fears of losing the still mourned mother.

According to Klein, to accept or work through mourning

requires decreased ambivalence, increased trust, hope, and

greater inner security. As tears excrete a subject's bad

feelings and objects and when grief and despair seem greatest

and love wells up in a subject for the lost object, then the


mourner feels that he can preserve the lost love within and

that life can go on. At this point, Klein assures that

suffering can become creative and productive. Klein's

theories concerning the passionate phantasies of mania might

help account for both the cunning, violent triumphs and the

contemptuous, insecure denials in many of Poe's tales.

Regardless of the difficulties of separating or evaluating

social victories from failures, his characters do reflect an

ambivalence between the humiliation of defeat and the triumph

of success. Still, the possibility of accepting the loss of

love and getting on with survival also appears in "Eleonora."

Klein's suggested use of mourning for creativity and

productivity strikingly parallels Poe's suggested use of

grief's fantasies to stimulate dispassionate poetic

imagination as set forth in his review of Amelia Welby.

These analysts helped develop the structural distinctions

between incorporative and introjective tendencies that help

account for some oral tensions found generally in Poe's texts

and images, and particularly in striking scenes with drink,

food, cannibalism, and necrophagy. Other analytic approaches

could also help resolve some of Poe's textual dynamics. John

Bowlby's studies on separation anxieties and their defenses

elaborate the nosological and clinical consequences of early

childhood loss and trauma. Recalling Freud's fort-da game and

extending Winnecott's transitional object, Vamik Volkan's

linking objects and phenomena mediating loss and the


bereaved's responses appear worthy of more consideration than

they have received. Jacques Lacan and two of his students,

Julia Kristeva and Slavoj Zilek, develop notions of the gap of

the real, das Ding, that make symptomatic the imaginary and

symbolic orders so that every interpretation and

interpellation fails (see Lacan's readings on Hamlet).

Although in some passages both Freud and Lacan seem aware of

their dependencies on the constructs of language, in more or

less subtle ways, psychoanalysis iterates and reifies the

scientific positivism and ideal subjectivity basic to its

founding works. Through their critical appreciations of

language and mourning, Abraham and Torok begin to move away

from these bases in ways that help resolve Poe's concerns.

Abraham and Torok's Crypts

These psychoanalytic studies of oral dependencies and the

adaptations for dealing with traumatic losses lay out the

influences and contexts that serve as foundations for the

theories of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. Incorporation

plays a critical role in these theories as does the assumed

object constancy of the idealized object.

Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok approach loss and

mourning with a more open acceptance of their uncertainties.

While remaining within the Freudian tradition, the

psychoanalysts consider identity both as a character's

personal subjectivity and as self-reflexivity within narrative


language. In "Maladie du deuil" Abraham and Torok note about


It is not, as one might think, an affliction caused by
the objective loss itself, but the feeling of having been
invaded by desire, of having been surprised by an excess
[d6bordement] of the libido, at the least suitable
moment, when it is fitting to be distressed and to
abandon oneself to despair. (My translation 232)

If, as the psychoanalysts claim in "Introjection--

Incorporation: mourning or melancholia," this excessively

inappropriate desire to articulate the unspeakable becomes "a

matter of the sudden loss of a narcissistically indispensable

object, while at the same time that loss is of such a nature

as to prohibit communication" (7), then this invasion of

desire may incorporatively block the process of introjection.

Introjection and incorporation represent divergent

strategies of oral development for dealing with loss and/or

death. Introjection serves as a basis for the transition

"from the breast-filled mouth to word-filled mouth" (5). In

the mouth, words receive the displaced gratification and

frustrations associated with the nurturing breast. Recalling

the fort da or bobbin game in which words come to stand in for

the mother's body from Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle,

a passage from "Introjection-Incorporation" explains the

operation of introjection:

Learning to fill the void of the mouth with words
constitutes an early paradigm of introjection. Clearly
this cannot occur without the constant presence
assistancee constant] of a mother who herself
possesses language. Her constancy--like that of
Descartes' God--is the necessary guarantee of the meaning
of words. When that guarantee is assured, and only then,


words can replace the mother's presence [la presence
maternelle] and give rise to new introjections. First
the empty mouth, then the absence of objects become
words, and finally experiences with words themselves are
converted [se convertissent] into other words. Thus the
original oral void will have found a remedy for all its
wants through their conversion in linguistic intercourse
[rapport de langage] with the speaking community. To
introject a wish, a grief, or a situation is to dispose
of it through language in a communion of empty mouths.
Thus food absorption, in the literal sense, becomes
introjection in the figurative sense. To achieve
[operer] this transition [passage], presence [la
presence] of the object must be superseded by auto-
apprehension, of its absence [absence]. Language, which
makes up for [supplee] that absence by representing
[figurant] presence, can be understood only within the
community of empty mouths. (6)

If the mother's constancy guarantees the meanings of words,

then her continued loss calls those meanings into question,

yet the child can sense or apprehend the assuming sameness of

her constancy only through the differences of her goings and

comings, her "absence and presence." The communion or

collusion of empty mouths displaces a constancy of the seeming

omnipotent nourisher with a constancy of language. With

introjection's successful substitutions, the caretaker's

constancy gradually gets diffused into the seemingly circular

conversions of one word into different words. In this version

of developmental psycholinguistics, attitudes of oral

dependence and independence get reflected in the assumed and

acquired structures of language. Converting the literal into

the figurative, the care of the language skilled provider,

usually the mother, guarantees that the lack expressed in a

child's hunger, desire, and/or loss will find appeasement or


more or less fulfillment through the child's articulations in


Proper language addressed to the constant attendant seems

magically rewarding. Initially provided seemingly gratis by

the caretaker, eating and the appropriate satisfactions of

hunger call for increasingly sophisticated language skills and

assertions of desires on the child's part in order to maintain

a differentiated power and control over the articulation of

needs and wants and over the satisfactions delivered through

language. Balking, crying, and vomiting exemplify resistances

to the acceptance of such development. With the gradual loss

of the mothering body during weaning, language supplements

figuratively the characteristics of her missing body and,

according to the analysts, even presupposes its loss. Such

unsettling separations vary greatly in abruptness and trauma.

The critically important dynamics of alimentary absorption and

nourishment, along with the body's desire for satisfaction,

motivate or drive the acquisition of sound discrimination and

speaking skills. The tensions and relaxations of the child's

articulating mouth, lips, teeth, and tongue as acknowledged by

the caretaker seem to assure the differentiations of the

inside and outside across the surfaces of body and language.

The sudden absence of the guarantor, an ego-ideal for the

developing child, during this process of acquisition

profoundly disrupts a sense of constancy, strikes a blow at

the development of narcissistic self, and prevents the ability


to communicate the utter devastation of the loss. In short,

this loss reveals the layers of assumptions or hypotheses in

proper psychic development at this oral stage. The

disappearance of the expected assurance of care disrupts the

persistent continuity of important objects and services: food,

diaper care, the body and patterns of the nourisher, security,

and words. At least in part, the trust and control of the

developing child groan under the trauma. Thus, the "inability

to introject the loss" (8) goes so far as to block the child's

expression in language of the rejection or denial of the

horrific loss. This inability to betray the grief to anyone

establishes the conditions needed for cherishing both the

memories and associative relays of connections with the

processes of loss and the fantasy of incorporation:

all the words he [the child] may not say, and all the
tears he may not shed will be swallowed, along with the
trauma, the cause of his loss. Swallowed and preserved.
Grief that cannot be expressed builds a secret vault
within the subject. In this crypt reposes--alive,
reconstituted from the memories of words, images, and
feelings--the objective counterpart of the loss, as a
complete person with his own topography, as well as the
traumatic incidents--real or imagined--that had made
introjection impossible. In this way a whole unconscious
fantasy world is created, where a separate and secret
life is led. Yet it happens that with libidinal activity
"in the middle of the night," the phantom of the crypt
may come to haunt the keeper of the graveyard, making
strange and incomprehensible signs to him, forcing him
to perform unwonted acts, arousing unexpected feelings in
him. (8)

Preserving the words, images, and feelings of the lost

caretaker and containing the traumatic events, the memorial

memories reconstitute a topological fantasy of "a complete


person" separated from the awareness of the ego and actually

included by a "secret vault within the subject." Emitted from

the oral incorporation, ghost effects of the phantom of the

crypt exert a significant structural influence, a haunting, on

the person that seems to lodge the cherished subject within:

"From their imaginary crypt--where they were thought to have

been devitalized, anesthetized, deprived of meaning, and put

into hibernation through fantasy--those unspeakable words do

not cease to exert their insidious effect" (11). Neither

simply literal nor figurative, these words operate on language

with an anasemic distribution.

For Edgar Allan Poe, these oral, linguistic effects of

the incorporation of the disappearance of his mother,

Elizabeth Arnold Poe, might account in part for the persistent

similarity of the labial and nasal sounds in the names of his

heroines as well as his retention of his "protector's" middle

name so that his initials matched those of his mother, E. A.

P. An identity registers in their signature effects.

Requiring additional study, Poe's identifications with his

mother and his mother's name seem quite remarkable. At any

rate, from the memory of the lost one within and its

"unutterable words and phrases, linked to highly narcissistic

and libidinal memories" (10), a separate unconscious develops.

The encryption within the self haunts their shared

unconsciousness. Strange and uncanny effects appear. The

expressions of this enclave do not simply manifest the return


of the repressed because the repression no longer stems from

a single ego, but from a doubled ego.

Each incorporated crypt has its own unconfessed mourning

resulting from the memory of an experience tainted with shame.

An architectonic habitation, this crypt requires that the

memory of the object remain idealized and, yet, protected from

the shame that the shared traumatic experience attaches to the


For the subject to build one [a crypt], the shameful
secret must have been the deed of an object, playing the
role of ego ideal. It is therefore a matter of keeping
its secret, of hiding its shame.
If the object is not mourned--as is customary with
figures of speech, it is for the very good reason that if
metaphors that are used to cause shame were evoked in
mourning, they would be invalidated (precisely as
metaphors) by the loss of the ideal that is their
guarantor. The solution of the cryptophoric subject will
be to nullify the effect of shame by--covertly or
overtly--taking the meaning of the words of the stigma
literally. "To introject" again becomes "to put in the
mouth," "to swallow," "to eat"; the reviled object will
in turn be "fecalized," as it were, transformed into true
excrement. The refusal to introject the loss of the
ideal will be expressed by double defiance: by
challenging the reviler and, epitomizing the fantasy and
its innumerable variations of eating, by boasting of
having eaten excrement [coprophagy]--by slovenliness,
filth, obscenity, etc. (9-10)

According to the analysts, the protection of this secret guilt

creates a challenging impropriety and a rhetorical figure that

actively undercut figuration. Under the pressure of the

trauma, the subject tries to return to the assurances of the

more literal levels of language. The analysts believe that

the consequent antimetaphor, which finds its paradigm, not in

necrophagy, but in coprophagy, "is not simply a matter of


going back to the literal sense of the words but of using them

in such a way--in speech or in action--that their

figurativenesss' is thereby destroyed" (10).

Because he distrusted allegorical effects, Poe's language

does appear curiously devoid of metaphorical usages, and his

creative metonymies often function under the influence of a

memory of loss. Requiring introjection, the fantasy of

incorporation thus seems to destroy the possibility of

metaphor and introjection, the conversion of the empty mouth

into words, but as the therapists note, introjectionn

constitutes the nostalgic evocation of every incorporation"

(7). Thus tending toward an abject conflation, a structural

asymmetry develops with significant implications. The fantasy

of incorporation always presupposes an introjective process,

whereas for the analysts, introjection does not depend upon

incorporation. While the idealized meanings of incorporation

require the articulating processes of introjection with its

metaphorical "communion of empty mouths," the challenging and

boastful meanings of incorporation resist and depend upon an

acceptance of the losses that find their organization around

the buccal and anal orifices.

The allocation of shame or guilt between the encrypted

object and the subject operates rather complexly. As the

"exchanging of one's own identity for a phantasmic

identification with the 'life'--beyond the grave--of an object

lost as the result of some metapsychological traumatism" ("A


Poetics of Psychoanalysis: 'The Lost Object--Me'" 5),

endocryptic identification functions as a mechanism that hides

the self from the crypt or, as the analysts, quoting Freud,

claim, conceals "'the Ego under the guise of the object'" (5).

However, to complete this identification, the opposite, in

which "the 'object' in turn, carries the ego as its mask" (5),

also envelops the connection between the identities. Thus,

the apparent topological identity of the encrypted object both

envelops and becomes enveloped by the identity of the subject.

Many of Poe's stories question the authenticity of identity

based on the contextual difficulties of assigning a priority

to either the object or the ego. Based on inherited memories,

identity proper both contains and becomes contained by a

phantasmic identification with life-beyond-death. Through

memory, this contextual envelope allows an identification with

the dead and absent. This cryptofantasy, as the therapists

note, "concerns not so much an object which no longer exists,

but the 'mourning' that this 'object' allegedly carries

out as a result of losing the subject; the subject,

consequently, now appears to be painfully missed by the

'object'" (5). This covert and imaginary identification,

unable to speak its aim or even its name, remains unutterable

or impossible to articulate, but it does produce anasemic

effects through the subject's articulations.

For the subject, the object's "proper" innocence survives

because the object had already endured some actual "improper"


aggression, such as scorn, ill-treatment, or disappointment

from different people, as the result of disgrace, separation,

and/or death. The topological structures of various crypts

emerge differently from particular, inherited contexts. The

potential for one or both of Poe's parents working as socially

disapproved actors to receive such insults remains great. The

subject's unambivalent and inadmissible love suffers a

traumatic disruption that encourages the subject's aggression

and hatred to store up the memories of the object as its most

prized possession. The crypt usually holds securely unless an

auxiliary object serving as a prop also disappears. The

analysts claim that then "faced with the threat of the crypt

collapsing, the whole ego becomes a tomb, concealing the

object of its secret love beneath its own contours"

("Introjection--Incorporation" 14). As an interminable grief

and a refusal to let go of the memories of loss, melancholia

follows cryptic collapse with the fusing of the ego and the

object of inclusion. Sometimes, this leds to suicide. Never

speaking of the most precious possession, the ego "will

display its misery, expose its gaping wound, [and] broadcast

its universal guilt" (14). The subject "acts out" or

expresses his or her memorial version of the loss attributed

to the object upon losing the subject.

Speaking from the grave, some of Poe's characters explain

their losses as they fall away from life. Also accounting for

the spoken and unspoken crimes of some of Poe's narrators,


this assumption of the responsibility of the dead explains the

paradoxical distribution of guilt in melancholia and, as the

analysts note, accounts for Freud's

surprise that the melancholic feels not the slightest
shame for all the horrors of which he accuses himself.
It now becomes clear: the more the object is portrayed as
a victim of suffering and misery (because of his yearning
for what he has lost, being the implication), the more
the subject has to be proud of--"He is going through all
that because of losing me!" The melancholic acts out--to
show its magnitude--the object's grief at having lost
him. (15)

Lending his body to the phantom, the melancholic subject

seems to inflict perverse suffering on himself. The guilt of

the innocent encrypted object does not appear as the subject's

fault, but for love of the object, the subject proudly bears

the seemingly lost object's responsibility. Because the

object became a victim and because the responsibility does not

belong to the subject, the melancholic does not feel the shame

connected to the flaws he accuses himself of. Morella's

husband seems strangely caught up in a similar disconnection.

The analysts claim that "the melancholic becomes this

mad phantom incarnate, in terms of all that he [the

object/subject] endured 'for him'" (15). According to the

therapists, the subject must misdirect and guard against all

those who would approach the crypt. The missing object speaks

anasemically through the screen of the subject. If the

subject recognizes the inalienable narcissistic property

treasured by the entombed memories and allows the experience's

objective counterparts to become figurative words, then the


talking cure can allegedly fecalize the tensions that hold the

most valued crypt in place.

Ghostly Gaps

In Abraham and Torok's cryptic mourning suspended from a

particular interplay between introjection and incorporation,

grief, in order to maintain the lost object, builds a secret

vault from memories of images, words, and feelings tainted

with guilty pleasures and traumatic shame. The embodied

variety of particular preservative crypts seems almost

unlimited. As responses to "an illegitimate sexual scene,"

the first kinds of encryption investigated by Abraham and

Torok operated under a "double impossibility: to make the

scene into an admissible ideal or to reveal it and, thereby,

destroy the libidinal ideal" ("A Poetics of Psychoanalysis"

10). While the unspeakability of a child's loss curbed

neurosis and its relinquishing apparently supplanted "the

betrayal of both the libidinal ideal and any wish for

revenge," a resistant tension in these early cases appeared

between proper and improper behaviors, for preservativeie

repression safeguards public opinion, while the fetish, a most

ingenious conceit, reduces the danger of a 'cosmic cataclysm'

to a harmless oddity capable of reviving desire" (10).

However, Abraham and Torok soon found additional, less

fetishistic, necrophiliac crypts. Freer from aggression,

these melancholic crypts emerge when "the blameless and


guiltless object [of love] after the idyll, left the

subject for good reason, so to speak, or in spite of himself"

(10). Innocent of abandonment or desertion, this idealized

object produces an aggression-free endocryptic identification.

While preservative, this guilt-free encryption calls on the

individual for a minimal repressive effort. If subjects

benefit personally from some unutterable favor, an inability

to put their unforgettable situation into words may result in

a denial of both the love and loss, the pleasure and

suffering. Thus in order to preserve the absent, but

encrypted, love, a seemingly idealized indifference comes to

haunt pain and pleasure, life and death with a melancholic

apathy. If self-destructive subjects suffer "a disappointment

in their object, in their sincerity or value," then deprived

of even a hope of acknowledgement, the doubly locked and

encrypted subjects will "desperately try to destroy what is

dearest to them" (11). The blame and guilt of such an

aggressively bound encryption, under a repeated

disappointment, can lead to suicide or an actively self-

destructive and perverse depression bordering on suicide.

With such shame- and guilt-laden encryptions, cautiously

nonprojective therapists may receive assistance in some cases

from "a trend of covert aggression directed against the

object, [that] remains in the deserted partner" (11). Thus,

the range of encryptions engages the forces of denial,


self-destruction, anger, depression, blame, and guilt that

frequently accompany loss and mourning.

Although the subject seems to conceal and guard the

unutterable encryption, as we have seen, the identity of the

encrypted object envelops and becomes enveloped by the

identity of the subject, and so the traumatic tension between

their shared incorporation and introjection appears through

the anasemic reflections of all the subject's topological

arrangements or designs. Permeating the subject and the

subject's fabrications and articulations, such affective

traces suggest the crypt's dynamics of blame, anger,

depression, guilt, or shame.

With the disappearance of an auxiliary support, an

approaching cryptic collapse, and a reenactment of the

encrypting trauma, these structures help account for textual

interventions or interruptions of continuance through

eruptions of the unknown and unspeakable that accompany them.

Past the normal senses, by attending to the way these oral

dynamics become embodied or emerge through a crisis, the

patient analyst or reader can infer from a particular context

some contours and designs of the cryptically secreted loss

from the subject. Through a careful consideration of the

conveyances, these hauntings and whisperings call reflectively

to the responsive reader for an adoptive rapport, an

identification. Similar to the way some almost inexpressible

hypnogogic reveries or fancies can get articulated into


language, like an under-current of phantoms and naiad voices,

these evanescent and supernal shadows of shadows can whisper

and reflect in part their mysteriously encrypted secrets

through textual designs.

Abraham and Torok address several disturbing features

bordering on the telepathic, which they term phantom effects,

that can accompany crypts. Through vibrations and rhythms

these unsituated memories convey telesthetic impressions from

distant losses and inheritances through necrophiliac and

cryptic spaces without the usual operations of the senses.

Exchanging the terms analyst and patient for reader and text

generates interpretative implications for translation and

transmission as the psychoanalysts try to explain these

ghastly conveyances etymologicallyy ghastly and ghostly derive

from the German Geist or spirit):

This image of the "phantom"--meant at first to point out
a rift (inflicted upon the listening analyst [reader] by
some secret of the patient [text] which could not be
revealed) that creates a formation in the unconscious of
the listener--lent itself to a variety of theoretical
elaborations. The analyst, readying himself to be keyed
to the dictates of the couch, is surely, in some
respects, comparable to a child maturing on the psychic
nourishment received from his parents. Should the child
have parents "with secrets," parents whose speech is not
exactly complementary to their unstated repressions, he
will receive from them a gap in the unconscious, an
unknown unrecognized knowledge--a nescience--subject to
a form of "repression" before the fact. (17)

Although this analogical countertransference assumes a

constancy between the unconscious repressions of the parents

and their speech such that a gap may appear in their alleged

complementary relation, it seems likely that a child may


detect and assimilate repressed and unspoken desires in the

parents' characters. Attuned to an unspoken rift in the

family rhythms, the child inherits an unrecognized knowledge,

a silently preservative repression. Passing these shared

layers of assimilated repressions through various generations

sets the stage for a child's differentiated emotional and

intellectual discernments. The economies of most so-called

co-dependent dynamics appear to pass through societies and

families similarly. While separating this "'repression'

before the fact" from the culturally inherited contexts and

values in general seems difficult at best, family secrets have

effects on a family's dynamics and affect a family's children

even if they remain consciously unaware of the secrets. These

encrypted enbodiments of crime and guilt convey an uncertain

violence and aggression traumatized around losses. With

ethical and political implications this cryptic passage also

conveys cultural inheritances in general. Assigning "proper"

ownership to such adoptive processes becomes particularly

bewildering. At any rate, to the extent of a reader's

"creative" imagination, forbearance, or sufferance, the

cryptic text remains open on reflection to share its

particular necrophiliac inheritances and usually conveys with

its imaged embodiment a formation of guilt or shame indicating

an unknown gap or rift. Depending on a shared inheritance of

images, the necrophiliac reflects a diffusive trust in these

common embodiments, but shaken by a memorial betrayal, the


bearer of a crypt considers these common images with a

traumatized and imaginative loss.

At the limits of their shadowy contours, these inherited

rifts or gaps suggest an enforced collective discontinuation

of consciousness in what appears, for whatever strictures,

abject, improper, or shameful. Although unspoken, such

repressed crimes or traumatic secrets insistently and

indirectly demand attention and have persistent, disruptive

influences through their embodiments. The source of these

responses lies lost in the heterogeneously layered, but

partially discernable, embodiments of individual and cultural

dreams and values. Abraham and Torok note the spectral

necromancy of these rifts and gaps on their recipients:

The buried speech of the parent becomes (a) dead (gap),
without a burial place, in the child. This unknown
phantom comes back from the unconscious to haunt and
leads to phobias, madness, and obsessions. Its effects
can persist through several generations and determine the
fate of an entire family line. (17)

Whether individual, familial, or cultural, this inherited

necrophilia (the attachment to a cryptic structure) haunts

memory with effects that seem to lack a proper situation or

location. Unspeakability accompanies this important burial.

Unacknowledged and faintly capable of articulation, an

encrypted loss implicates an abandonment or death whose

adopted rhythms unaccountably haunt its subjects) with signs

through the cryptic topography. Although these ghost effects

do not necessarily belong to the repression of a haunted

subject, they do speak with more than one voice through the


subject's unconscious with various kinds of telesthetic

ventriloquisms. Although homeless, but lodged in the

subject's recollections, these phantom manifestations belong,

somewhat more properly, to the encrypted parental unconscious.

In "Fors" Derrida terms this cryptic haunting in which a

crypt "belongs" to someone else heterocryptography (xxxi).

Through this telesthetic conveyance a particular and

individual cryptic inheritance merges with the more general

and shared necrophiliac space arising from language and

culture. Commingling memory and imagination, this layered

ventriloquism may account psychologically for some so-called

extrasensory manifestations. Clairaudience and spectral

appearances in Poe's tales seem to emerge as such ghost

effects. For Poe, such reflective specters and echoing

ventriloquisms appear to constitute the hopeful and desperate

dream of reading.

Abraham and Torok's concepts of introjection,

incorporation, endocryptic identification, and ghost effects

help account for the operation of loss in Poe's texts. By

positioning the outside object inside the subject as an absent

inclusion, these concepts at once open the individual identity

up to more general appropriative contexts and seal it off from

them. Yet the inclusion's dividing wall of conservative

repression creates a particular structure for these

conversions. Assessing Abraham and Torok's placement of the

crypt, Derrida observes in "Fors":


The inner safe (the Self) has placed itself outside the
crypt, or, if one prefers, has constituted "within
itself" the crypt as an outer safe. One might go on
indefinitely switching the place names around in this
dizzying topology (the inside as the outside of the
outside, or of the inside; the outside as the inside of
the inside, or of the outside, etc.), but total confusion
is not possible. The parietal partitions are very solid.

While the attempt to assign certain values in this abyssal

topology confounds with giddiness any assured placement of

responsibility to either the subject or the object, the

strategies of introjective assimilation structure both the

subject and object around a loss that haunts the caretaker of

the crypt with uncanny and strange appearances of the dead.

The secret of the absence of the crypt tends to suspend

assertions of certainty and vertiginously haunts ideal

assurances with doubt. The conflicts between the conscious

self and the encrypted memorial of memories lead to a tortured

resistance and an interminable grief. The loss of the mother

and the emptiness of language call for subjects and objects to

devise structural strategies for enduring or surviving under

a perpetual mourning.

These structural strategies result in particular

topological keeping of memories, a memorial architectonics.

Not only do they help account for the arrangements of textual

structure, they also help account for the structures of

reading, indeed any regard. Without incorporative

resistances, however, meaning could accept and introject more

of the effects of absence.


These theories about the effects of the early childhood

loss of a primary caretaker help situate the emotional

structures around which later developments accrue. They all

suggest in some detail the serious structural disturbances of

the child's sense of continuity and trust in relation to its

oral dependence on an idealized object, the primary caretaker.

Under the influence of loss, the dynamic tensions between

introjection and incorporation reflect losses similar to those

the idealist acknowledges in trying to deal with skeptic's

arguments for suspension. The effect of loss on the

developing child uncovers the contextual hypotheses of

constancy needed for the foundation of a subject's identity,

the acquisition of language, and later assignments of

responsibility. Perhaps incohately, the bodily processes of

introjection remain. The analyst's theories also suggest the

life-long persistence of the memories of this loss through an

incorporation of the images of the departed. These included

images of memory seem to take on ghostly hauntings of their

own that maintain the child's connections with this most

cherished inheritance. Poe seems mournfully aware of his

parental loss and its seriousness. He also writes mournfully

about the oscillating processes involved in the painful loss

of his wife, Virginia.

Poe's Letters

Poe's accounts of the deaths of his parents and his wife

should interest readers as background for his approach to

mourning. His views of his losses indicate his conscious

awarenesses about his own mourning. Poe explains the deaths

of his parents in a letter to William Poe, his second cousin:

"My father David died when I was in the second year of my age.

. Our mother died a few weeks before him. Thus we [his

brother and sister included] were left orphans at an age when

the hand of a parent is so peculiarly requisite" (Ostrom 1

68). This orphanage and abandonment by death at 35 months has

profound effects on a child's trust and subsequent

development. In a letter to Beverley Tucker, Poe responds to

Tucker's mention of his mother's name:

In speaking of my mother you have touched a string to
which my heart fully responds. To have known her is to
be an object of great interest in my eyes. I myself
never knew her--and never, knew the affections of a
father. Both died (as you may remember) within a few
weeks of each other. I have many occasional dealings
with Adversity--but the want of parental affection has
been the heaviest of my trials. (1 79)

The opening sentence of this passage paraphrases the epigraph

to "The Fall of the House of Usher." With a vibrant heart,

Poe articulates rather precisely and consciously his want and

his orphanage. As his heaviest trial Poe seems to accept with

appropriate affect the adversity of not having parental

guidance. Contrasting with the sentimentally assumed images


of the loving mother-and-baby bond, if the death-orphaned

infant survives, it feels the traumatic loss of its beloved

and constant nurturer and longs for a ghostly resumption, at

least until the disillusioned and distrustful child adopts as

well as it can to its disrupted circumstances.

In a letter responding to George Eveleth's accusations of

periodic drunkenness, Poe, an admitted alcoholic, justifies

his drinking bouts in terms of his wife's recoveries and

relapses with tuberculosis:

Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no ever loved
before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was
despaired of. I took leave of her forever & underwent
all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially
and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel broke
again--I went through precisely the same scene. Again in
about a year afterward. Then again--again--again & even
once again at varying intervals. Each time I felt all
the agonies of her death--and at each accession of the
disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with
more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally
sensitive--nervous in a very unusual degree. I became
insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During
these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only
knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my
enemies referred the insanity to the drink rather than
the drink to the insanity. I had indeed, nearly
abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one
in the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as
becomes a man--it was the horrible never-ending
oscillation between hope & despair which I could not
longer have endured without the total loss of reason. In
the death of what was my life, then, I received a new
but--oh God! how melancholy an existence. (2 356)

Many of these themes play throughout the deaths presented in

Poe's stories. An act of art, singing an unspecified song,

triggers Virginia's decline into death. The various

approaches to death might have given Poe an uncanny

opportunity to examine in painful detail the irrationally


dynamic oscillations between despair and hope of anticipatory

mourning. He associates the loss of reason with the seemingly

never-ending oscillations between his hopes and fears for

Virginia's survival. Wavering between the affirmations of her

repeatedly hoped for recovery and the doubts about her

permanently leaving forever, Poe claims he responded by

vacillating between a clinging and desperate pertinacity, a

horrible sanity, and nervous fits of insanity, absolute

unconsciousness, during which he drank. While typical of some

alcoholics' rationalizations of self-medication and blackouts,

Poe attributes his drinking to a nervous loss of control or a

fit of insanity that as a condition preceded his periodic

drinking. Although he admits to a constitutional

"nervousness," the co-dependent agitation preceding the abuses

of alcohol addiction fits in well with the fact that

alcoholism often covers an oral disorder that does not

necessarily imply the total loss of reason. Thus Poe knows

that, normatively, the apparent loss of the culturally

"proper" reason becomes a mark of madness. Acting on this

derangement, he also knows the fascination of going over the

verge of the "proper" and into an unconscious loss of control.

Poe finds a certain cure in the "death" of his beloved

wife. The appeal to god seems as much a groan or a lament as

a praise of thanksgiving for relief. Based on the loss that

had split his desperate life between hope and fear, this

permanent cure opens upon a new and depressed survival based


on haunting memories, uncannily doubling in their insistent

similarities, and the acceptance of emptiness, unreliability,

doubt, orphanage, and loss surrounding absence. Thus, the

absence of death provides a certain remedy for the barely

endurable oscillations by substituting a novel and maleficent

melancholy. The grotesque and "improper" terms of such a

melancholia seem to find inscription in Poe's writings.

From Mourning to Doubt

Stemming from mourning's unimaginable loss, the effects

of horrible sanity and unconscious fits of insanity can

unsettle any possible constancy. Disturbing the relational

affirmations of feelings and thoughts, grief and distrustful

doubt can break the entrancements of ordinary language,

whether written or spoken, listened to or read. Words in

whose powerful effects Poe places his entire faith led him to

believe, however, in the possible embodiment of evanescent

fancies bordering on the inarticulable and the unutterable.

Anasemically engaging the processes of introjection and the

fantasies of incorporation, neither simply literal nor

metaphorical, the memorial and memorable effects of words

become strangely lodged between embodiments and reflections,

between materialities and spiritualities. Enfolding the co-

dependencies inherited from the vanished, "The Power of

Words," one of Poe's dialogues of the dead, and Poe's mention


of Mrs. Hemans' "The Sceptic" suggest the connection between

the losses of love and the losses of knowledge and faith.

As shown in the introduction, neither imagination nor

fancy create, and as both appear relatively and intuitively

felt and known, neither seems clearly distinct. Later in the

readings of the three tales, we will attend to the upper-

currents of empiricism and fancy as each narrative viewpoint

regards the haunting reflections and echoes accompanying

cadaverous wastes and traceless charnels. Here in a cryptic

contrast, we will look at the ghostly viewpoints of the

deceased Agathos and Oinos as they consider the dreamy

embodiments of desire. After Agathos tries to orient the

newly deceased Oinos to the limits and indefinite extensions

of any movement or ethereal impulse in dreamless Aidenn, he

turns the novice's attention toward the material power of


Agathos.--[W]hile I spoke, did there not cross your
mind some thought of the physical power of words? Is not
every word an impulse on the air?
Oinos.--But why, Agathos, do you weep?--and why--oh
why do your wings droop as we hover above this fair star
--which is the greenest and yet most turbulent of all we
have encountered in our flight? Its brilliant flowers
look like a fairy dream--but its fierce volcanoes like
the passions of a turbulent heart.
Agathos.--They are!--They are! This wild star--it
is now three centuries since with clasped hands, and with
streaming eyes, at the feet of my beloved--I spoke it--
with a few passionate sentences--into birth. Its
brilliant flowers are the dearest of all unfulfilled
dreams, and its raging volcanoes are the passions of the
most turbulent and unhallowed of hearts. (VI 143-44)

What Oinos takes as metaphorical, Agathos affirms as literal.

In mournful tears, Agathos spoke the star, the word-thing,


into embodiment. His dearest unfulfilled dreams of all as

aesthetic flowers and his unhallowed passions as diffusive,

raging eruptions reflect his attempt to appease his

unsatisfied desire before his unobtainable beloved. Between

the doubled spiritual viewpoints, these flowers and fiery

flows seem neither simply literal nor metaphorical because the

ideal that might guarantee or sanctify the definitive status

of the passionate sentences lies lost. If this seems to

derive some positive identity from the negative, it does not.

As they cross the mind, the unhallowed and dreamy forces that

seem to "create" or haunt embodied entities remain suspended

and lost in the mediating heterogeneity of what appears as

infinite matter. Before the fluidity of loss, the fiery

hardihood of dreamy passions (XVI 276) makes possible and

limits the embodied and reflective assumptions capable of

hypothesizing the utmost conceivable expanses of space: "a

shadowy and fluctuating domain, now shrinking, now swelling,

in accordance with the vacillating energies of the

imagination" (XVI 204).

Entangling structures of introjection and incorporation,

of embodiment and reflection, and of attraction and repulsion,

shadowy memories engage the excessive desire as a dreamy

passion shrinking and swelling with loss. This affective

mourning marks Agathos' discourse on the heterogeneous limits

of knowledge at the beginning of "The Power of Words":


Oinos.--[I]n this existence, I dreamed that I should
be at once cognizant of all things, and thus at once
happy in being cognizant of all.
Agathos.--Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in
the acquisition of knowledge! In for ever knowing, we
are for ever blessed; but to know all were the curse of
a fiend.
Oinos.--But does not The Most High know all?
Agathos.--That (since he is The Most Happy) must be
still the one thing unknown even to HIM.
Oinos.--But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must
not at last all things be known?
Agathos.--Look down into the abysmal distances!
Even the spiritual vision, is it not at all points
arrested by the continuous golden walls of the universe?
--the walls of the myriads of the shining bodies that
mere number has appeared to blend into unity? (VI 139)

Seeking to obtain all, whether of passion or knowledge,

appears as a blessing while uncertainty remains. To obtain

all, and thus to end the sustenance made possible by the

processes of doubt and longing, becomes a curse. However,

with Poe's ultimate impossibility of conception, any absolute

possession or final pleasure or pain lies out of the utmost

expansive capacity of mediated creatures, including God.

These connections between trust and faith, distrust and

doubt, do not originate with Poe. Mrs. Hemans' "The Sceptic"

uses them in an attempt to encourage a Christian faith based

on the mother-son bond. As Poe's works share many common

themes with the British poet and employes her texts to

evaluate the poetry of Mrs. L. H. Sigourney and Mrs. Norton,

it seems safe to assume that he read many of her works. In

his review of Chorley's Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, Poe recounts

an anecdote:

During the latter part of her life a gentleman called
upon her and thanked her with great earnestness for the


serious benefit he had derived from "[T]he Sceptic,"
which he stated to have been instrumental in rescuing him
from gross infidelity. (IX 198)

Without claiming that Poe does or does not identify with the

gentleman's rescue from infidelity, gross or subtle, it seems

that the poem at least caught his attention.

Urging doubters to a gospel assurance, "Let Thy word

control" (253), Mrs. Hemans ends the poem with a nurturing

mother teaching her trusting son the inspired and "immortal


She bids the prayers of infancy arise,
Tell of his name, who left his Throne on high,
Earth's lowliest lot to bear and sanctify,
His love divine, by keenest anguish tried,
And fondly say--"My child, for thee He died!" (258)

While the poet ignores orphanage and the want of parental

affection in this poem, the earthly duplication of divine

mothering seems to set the way for the maintenance of faith in

adversity. This mother-son bond contrasts with Poe's

depictions of the treatment children receive, such as seen by

Morella's orphaned daughter or the child in "The Assignation"

who falls or gets thrown into the under-currents of a Venetian


With the crucifixion as an ideal, the poet affirms that

when the cup of trembling approaches, this trust serves as the

rocklike foundation for the flight to God's love and peace:

if still, when life was young,
Faith to thy bosom, as her home, hath sprung,
If Hope's retreat hath been through all the past,
The shadow by the Rock of Ages cast,
Father, forsake us not! (254)


Avoiding the problems of disrupted mothering, perhaps the

lowliest lot, Mrs. Hemans turns to difficulties proud doubters

confront at death. She asks:

When years, with silent might, thy frame have bow'd,
And o'er thy spirit cast their wintery cloud,
Will Memory soothe thee on thy bed of pain
With the bright images of pleasure's train? (248)

If trust gets considered as the pleasurable memories of a

childhood with dependable mothering, the answer seems

affirmative, but a loving faith seems to transcend earthly

memory. Turning trust and hope toward love, she warns:

But thou whose thoughts have no blest home above!
Captive of earth! and canst thou not dare to love?
To nurse such feelings as delight to rest,
Within that hallow'd shrine--a parent's breast,
To fix each hope, concentrate every tie,
On one frail Idol--destined but to die;
Yet mock that faith that points to worlds of light,
Where severed souls, made perfect, re-unite? (248)

If the skeptic prays to the Divine as his soul pines "in

dungeons, 'midst the shade / Of such deep night as man for man

hath made" and remains "[i]n its own dread abyss of darkness

chain'd" (250), then like Plato's prisoner emerging from the

cave, the dazzling light will overpower and blind until

adopting the transcendent faith, the soul passes through its

trembling adjustment. If not, if reason wanders from faith

and the earthly nature gains sway, then "the vacant eye / By

mind deserted," "[t]he wild delirious laughter of despair,"

and "[t]he mirth of frenzy" appear to indicate an "awful ruin

--one lost mind / Whose star is quench'd" (251). The

anticipation of death becomes a test of this faith. A faith


in science, the poet's lyre, power, or fame that excludes

God's surety leads the soul to rage, agony, and despair. If

the lent light of the Savior's love vanishes, then at an

extreme the "ruin'd tenement" remains left to its own


breathing, moving, lingering yet,
A thing we shrink from--vainly to forget!
--Lift the dread veil no further--hide, oh! hide
The bleeding form, the couch of suicide! (253)

With a censorious propriety, she tells the reader: "Approach

not, gaze not--lest thy fever'd brain / Too deep that image of

despair retain" (253). Hoping for a good death and fearful of

a bad one, a pilgrim finds the ordeal of dying an effective

test for faith.

Setting up an identification with those orphaned and

secluded from ideal mothering or parenting, from the faith as

depicted by those like Mrs. Hemans, Poe's texts try to feel

and think about a strangely marginalized mourning and doubt

verging on the nihility of a final loss. Not simply a divine

curse, a scientific constant, mathematical zero, linguistic

negation, or mysterious cipher, this nihility as a phantasmic

encounter makes any cherished ideal possible and absolutely

marks it as incomplete and unobtainable. Emerging from past

sensible perception, feeling, and conception, memory as an

articulated reflection and embodiment structured by the

effects of loss engages ideal feelings and thoughts through

the shadows of affective mourning and skeptical doubts.

Strangely exceeding the identity of any idealized subject or


object, readings and writings relate and respond to this

heart-felt want or longing that seems unfounded and never-


Two Psychocritics Read Poe

To assess how psychoanalytic approaches try to come to

terms with the impossibility of conceptualizing loss, as Poe

articulates it, requires a consideration of relevant

psychocriticisms, particularly those of Marie Bonaparte and

Nicolas Abraham, and attention to certain of Freud's


Poe's writings have long served as a testing-ground for

psychoanalytic theories. For the curious, evaluations of some

pre-1970's attempts to deal adequately with Poe appear in

Arthur Lerner's facile Psychoanalytically Oriented Criticism

of Three American Poets: Poe. Whitman, and Aiken that looks at

psychostudies by Bonaparte, Pruette, Lindsay, and Krutch and

in Roger Forclaz's more informative "Edgar Poe et la

Psychoanalyse" that considers the above psychocritics, except

Lindsay, plus fifteen more writers. With varying degrees of

projective reflection and appreciation of loss, no shortage of

such studies has developed since the seventies. Many of these

ad hominem studies diligently attack reconstructed images of

what they imagine as Poe's person and character. Despite

their flogging about and general lack of appreciation of loss


in Poe, some of these psychocriticisms do pose interesting


Of course, with its laconic foreword by Freud who refers

to Poe, "a great writer with pathologic trends," as one of

"creative genius" and among "exceptionally endowed

individuals" (xi), Marie Bonaparte's The Life and Works of

Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-Analytic Interpretation remains the

monumental classic since the general canonical acceptance of

psychoanalytic criticism in the early seventies. Bonaparte

communicated frequently with Freud while writing the book.

She seems to sense that Freud's view of loss and death stood

on the line in her interpretative psychobiography.

Acknowledging the function of loss in his life and work, she

claims basically that Poe had an oedipal fixation, as the

result of unresolved anal and oral trauma, that resulted in a

sado-necrophilia. She realizes that grievous necrotrauma

connects to mourning one's ideal object of beloved constancy

when she cites Jones: "'The most normal form of necrophilia

. seems to be not much more than an extension of the part

love plays in mourning; the frantic refusal to accept the

event and to separate for ever from the beloved'" (693).

Not all such refusals operate unconsciously or with

denial. After mentioning Herodotus, King Herod, Charlemagne,

Kleist, de Sade, and Hugo, Bonaparte writes elegantly on the

larger importance of necrophilia for society:

Now it is just the fact that this form of necrophilia is
dealt with in literature and legend which attracts our


notice. If it has thus been raised to the rank of a
myth, it must be because it responds to a latent human
ideal; that of love surviving the grave and eternal
This is the attenuating circumstance in necrophilia
and what makes it morally and aesthetically acceptable,
even poetical: as though this last of its forms were a
supreme sort of love. (694)

Thus, necrophilia becomes a desperately ideal hope that love

and eternal fidelity might survive death. Probably, the

scientific psychoanalyst regards this endeavor as a kind of

narcissistic magic. Necrophilia supposedly operates

acceptably in poetic, aesthetic, and moral realms, perhaps,

because of their apparently regressive or ideally

hypercritical functions.

I use necrophilia more generally to suggest the shared

attraction for traditions and/or inheritances that bring

people together when they imagine they have that legacy in

common, even if they resist their attraction. Derived from

the departed, these necrophiliac inheritances include

biological genes, family members, languages, attitudes,

values, and cultural and social mores and institutions. Thus,

most, if not all, of what people regard as themselves they

assimilate in respect to contexts acquired from the dead.

Bonaparte recognizes the seriousness of the connection

between death, anxieties, and introjection. She also

recognizes two types of necrophilia in Poe:

Thus, throughout Poe's life, as we readily see, two kinds
of necro-philia were present in him, though latent and
transferred from object to object; the necrophilia of
fidelity and sado-necrophilia proper. One, in effect,
does not exclude the other, and fidelity to the love


object may manifest itself in all the numerous ways love
is expressed. (694)

Bonaparte marks Poe's oscillations between hope and despair

or, in her terms, necrophilic fidelity and sadism. That fear

and anxiety attach to active aggression, sado-necrophilia,

does not miss her. She knows that introjected and projected

ideals and enemies, "good" and "bad" objects, usually receive

the brunt of these violence. It seems that even

psychoanalysis engages in these gestures itself as it condemns

the allegedly impotent, pathological genius of Poe with faint

praise. Of course, this does not deny that Poe had problems,

as he himself admits in his letters.

Poe's attitude about the rashness of positivism, hobbled

by its inductive methodology and inadequate demonstration,

would function implicitly as a criticism of Freud's

assumptions just as psychocritics have extended Freud's

theoretical assumptions to evaluate Poe and his works.

Frustrated with the seemingly "mistaken" applications of

psychoanalytic theory to Poe's works, Mario Praz accurately

situates this encounter with his question, "What, after all,

is psychoanalysis but a flamboyant development of positivism?"

(380). Interested in the intuitive principles of

investigation and the methodologies of its science, Poe would

have condemned positivism, and its reified notions of death

and absence, much as he treats the perplexed and empirically-

oriented narrator of "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Clearly, Praz does not appreciate the pleasures of theoretical


encounters in which he engages. But, perhaps, interpreting

Freud's studies as positive science misses their literary

intuitions. For this possibility of regarding Freud, Poe

might have had more empathy.

At any rate, in reading Poe, Bonaparte has difficulties

with the traditional notion of introjection. Usually she

avoids using the terms introjection and incorporation. Once,

however, reaching far beyond the barriers of language

acquisition, she tries to situate Poe's difficulties in

suffocating womb fantasies. Although in Beyond the Pleasure

Principle Freud had unsolvable troubles in assigning pleasure

to either the life or death drives, in her psychobiography

Bonaparte applies introjection to unpleasure and anxiety more

widely than most analysts in general, but she admits to

problems in sorting out the possible sources for anxiety in

Poe's works:

Furthermore, in womb-phantasies anxiety-cathected, (which
we must remember is not always the case), there enter
anxiety factors other than those which originate in the
"memory" of birth. Such phantasies in adults and, even,
children do not exist alone, and other anxieties have
been or will be experienced. Birth-anxiety, for
instance, is succeeded by separation-anxiety, whenever
the mother absents herself from the child. Later, there
appear castration fears, inspired by our upbringers,
linked with the repression of our infantile sexuality.
Follows the anxiety derived from conscience, issuing from
the introjection of the menaces of these same upbringers
and, lastly, fear of death which derives from the ego
narcissistically fearful for its survival, once it has
learnt that death exists: that death which the
unconscious never admits. All these forms of anxiety
may, through regression, fuse with womb-phantasies and
that [regression of anxieties], so closely, that often it
is difficult to separate them at first sight. (587)


Perhaps aware of the normative implications of the term, she

mentions introjection with the conscience and not with

separation anxiety or castration. Through regression the

anxieties of the womb, birth, separation, castration,

conscience, and death may fuse. This fusion does little to

explicate the precise details of Poe's critical views or works

beyond the predictably generalized concepts of psychoanalysis.

Accepting the numerous problems of "memory" in the case

of the first two fears or anxieties, which psychoanalysis

reading backward through development must "reconstitute" in

language, Bonaparte claims that with difficulty analysis can

discern the developmental levels of these fears of loss.

Perhaps, she does this by keeping non-anxiety-cathected womb-

fantasies in mind as a normative guide for development. While

accurate enough for a general sketch of Poe's life and works

in psychoanalytic terms, Bonaparte's dependent conceptual

generalizations fail to pursue the specific implications of

Poe's criticisms for those very terms. In short, while

exercising the implications of psychoanalytic theory on Poe's

writings and a reconstructed version of his person, she

dismissively fails to consider his own critical theory in

relation to her own assumptions. Confronting Poe's critical

approaches might prove challenging indeed for psychoanalysis,

especially with its perplexed and perplexing views of memory

and the unconscious, the death drive, repetition, aggression,

the uncanny, and telepathy.