By Michael J. S. Williams
"A global of phrases" bargains a brand new examine the measure to which language itself is a subject of Poe's texts. Stressing the methods his fiction displays at the nature of its personal signifying practices, Williams sheds new mild on such matters as Poe's characterization of the connection among writer and reader as a fight for authority, on his wisdom of the displacement of an "authorial writing self"; via a "self because it is written"; and on his debunking of the redemptive homes of the romantic image.
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Additional info for A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe
In an 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell, Poe suggests that the terms used to evoke the supernal are "mere word[s]": "I have no belief in spirituality. I think the word a mere word"; and, he adds, in terms reminiscent of his definition of imagination, "No one has really a conception of spirit. We cannot imagine what is not" (L 257). F In Eureka (1848), Poe comments on "that merest of words, 'Infinity''': "This, like 'God,' 'spirit,' and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in nearly all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea-but of an effort at one.
Crowded with these 'shadows of shadows' "-and so underscores the interrelationship of language rather than its referential relationship to any prior "glimpse of the spirit's outer world" (M 99). That Poe's interrogation of the power of words is not a naive celebration of "word magic," whereby a lost presence is recuperated in the "talismanic word, "21 is evident in the so-called angelic dialogues. "The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" (1839) is-according to the 1843 title-a dialogue "between two Departed Spirits" in the realm of Aidenn.
Stoehr takes Agathos's assertions at face value and suggests that "this power depends somehow on the physical nature of the words themselves . their particular sound or look is intimately related to the characteristics of the thing they name. "25 However, a closer examination suggests that, rather than endorsing such an idea, Poe is merely entertaining it for examination. The literal "power of words" must not be taken too literally. The straight reading must assume that the shift away from Oinos's similes-"like a fairy dream ...
A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe by Michael J. S. Williams
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