Movements in the Hollow Coffin: On “The Fall of the House of Usher”


An irrational belief that the dead may return to haunt the living is part of “the uncanny,” a psychical phenomenon whose theory Sigmund Freud adapts (from Ernst Jentsch) to describe “the perceptible reanimation of something familiar that has been repressed.”“The writer,” Freud argues, brings us “in relation to spirits, demons, and ghosts” by “not letting us know whether he is taking us into the real world or into a purely fantastic one of his own creation.”1 If psychoanalytic theory holds that literature is manifestly a haunted medium, then perhaps a productive intersection could be staged between Freud's uncanny and Jacques Derrida's “hauntology”—between psychical phenomena and a critical program that “supplants its near-homonym ontology, replacing the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present nor absent, neither dead nor alive.”2 The literary figure of this conjunction would best be described as “undead”—and, by reading an exemplarily haunted work of literature with these two theories in mind, I want to propose some ideas for what I am going to call “the undeath of the author.”

To begin with a concession: Edgar Allan Poe is done to death. While the flesh-and-blood Poe met his physical end over 160 years ago—done in by either alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, or tuberculosis—similarly myriad scholars have dissected his literary corpus with all the critical tools provided them, and by doing so they have turned out a variety of different Poes. Scott Peeples describes a handful in the preface to his indispensible Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe (2004): “the romantic Southern outcast, the patron saint of the French symbolists, the hack, the test case for Freudian psychoanlysis, the proto-deconstructionist, the racist, the anti-racist, and so on.”3 Achieving metaphorical quintessence, then, a profusion of that scholarship has been deeply indebted to Roland Barthes's seminal essay “Death of the Author” (1967). Within this context, the most famous work to be influenced by Barthes—Joseph Riddel's 1979 essay “The ‘Crypt’ of Edgar Poe”—argues that, in Poe's tales, “images of nature are already metonymic substitutions for words—or substitutions for substitutions,” and that Poe's “realm of dreams” is in fact the “realm of language.”4 It is thus that Poe has been done to death, and in at least three ways—his body was obliterated; critical overkill carved up the oeuvre; and, finally, Barthes decoupled the author from his text, burying the remnants of that authorial corpse far from the fruits of its lost lifeblood. However, and instead of warranting critical abandonment or occluding lively scholarship, I believe this manifold of death might be productive insofar as it situates Poe as a barometer by which to gauge the vicissitudes of a deadly trend in literary criticism. That will be the task of this essay, to follow Poe into (and back out of) his theoretical hereafter.

I want to make good on all these morbid metaphors and dovetail Poe's critical afterlife with the form and narrative of one of his tales—“The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839)—which I read not only as the story of Madeline Usher's return from the grave but also as a formal and emplotted rendition of Poe's authorial undeath. My argument has three points: that literary criticism has sealed the dead author within a crypt below his own text, thereby disarticulating Poe from “The House of Usher” and making possible certain readings that his presence would otherwise preclude; that, in spite of this, the authorial Poe remains encrypted within the construction of his prose; and, lastly, that it is through the effect this prose has on the reader that an undead Poe might return to his tale. It will be my contention that, although autobiographical information about an author is not enough to warrant the censure or valorization of a text that he or she produced, textual construction might still adhere to a questionable politics specific to its author. If the “politics of literature” is derived from a text's strictly literary involvement in the dispensation of historical conjuncture, then establishing the political inclination of a text will be a question neither of authorial intent nor of historical representation. It will, rather, be a question of form.5 Yet what I want to suggest is that authorial intent and historical representation might very well manifest formally and that it is at this level that Poe is an exemplary figure in American letters.6 If this is the case, the deconstructive prospect of Poe's authorial undeath might balance theoretically informed literary criticism and formal analysis against the historical antecedents particular to their object of study.

Temporary Entombment

Edgar Allan Poe did not just die. Rather, he was murdered. In his 1967 essay, Barthes argued that literary criticism should no longer center itself “on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions.”7 Would Barthes, whose repetition reads like homicidal conviction, not present himself as the prime suspect to Poe's murder? Confirming that suspicion, the Frenchman betrays something like a confession: “the birth of the reader,” he wrote, “must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”8 While Poe scholarship still persists long after the author's biological termination, his authorial corpse—like that of Madeline Usher—has been sealed within a crypt below the house, behind a door of “immense weight” (PT, 329). Critical “glances, however, rested not long upon the dead,” as Barthes, like Roderick Usher, screwed shut the coffin and secured the massive iron door behind him as he left, isolating the dead author from a house built thereupon. That “The House of Usher,” now safe against the author, becomes “a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” situates its narrative locus as the zoned materialization of something which we, after Barthes, might call “text”—and so it is that text is but a cenotaph to its dead author.9

This disarticulating deathblow carries a particular import for Poe scholarship, especially with regard to the inclusion of Poe's literary works within a distinctly American canon—in the instance of “Usher,” at least, the author's death makes it more than possible to read his tale as representing a certain political perspective specific to antebellum America.10 Described in terms of a “wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones” (PT, 319-20), the house might be read to metaphorize the design for a wildly inconsistent and thereby democratic literature. Appropriating the Jeffersonian ideal that the United States “reject and renounce all allegiance and subjection to the kings of Great Britain,”11 French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville argues that an American literature ought to do away with canonization in the name of equality because, for Tocqueville, the overturning of the canon gives proof that “in a democracy each generation is a new people.”12 The patchy exterior with its crumbling stones juxtaposed to its other, perfectly adapted parts, might therefore speak to this dissolution of a canon while simultaneously evoking Jefferson's claim, that it is “necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them.”13

If “The House of Usher” stands to embody something democratic, it would only be suitable that its centerpiece appear as though held together by a rhizome: “minute fungi overspread the whole exterior,” the narrator informs us, “hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves” (PT, 319). For philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the rhizome is the exceptional metaphor of democracy—for what they describe as “lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification.”14 Awkward as their vocabulary might sound, their botanical choice of imagery serendipitously brings together a transatlantic nexus of text, history, and theory: “The House of Usher,” it would seem, not only exemplifies a democratic ideal specific to America; it also speaks to that particular moment in French theory which obliterated Poe's authorship while rendering its own kind of democratic imperative. Given that Barthes (followed by Deleuze and Guattari) would describe text as a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash,”15 and that Jefferson believed democratic America to be comprised of similarly “inherent and inalienable rights,” such a theoretical leveling could possibly situate the tale of “Usher” and its house as both the paragon of text and the avatar of an ideally democratic America. This perspective—that the text of Poe's tale might speak to an American ideal by way of admittedly serendipitous analogies—will require some formal justification with reference to the whole of the text.

Even though Poe contests the pretense that “an American should confine himself to American themes, or even prefer them,”16 scholars have argued that Poe's tales were composed with the idea of an American literature in mind insofar as they assert national sentiments, “not through frontier narratives or colonial romances, but through … fables of revenge, obsession, and domination that sometimes critiqued ordered, class-bound European society.”17 Such a nationalist and, I want to add, a democratically contoured critique makes itself most apparent in “The House of Usher” when the narrator accounts for Roderick's “excessive and habitual” reserve, which is attributed to “his very ancient family” who “had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, … the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain” (PT, 318). The narrator repeats his withering phrase—“it was this deficiency”—as he suggests that the housebound “transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name … ha[s], at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the ‘House of Usher’” (319). The incestuous characterology of “The House of Usher” might, then, speak to an idea of American letters via its critique of Europe—but this kind of negative affirmation is, of course, less a national ideal than its xenophobic bastardization.

So while a critique of Europe might be insufficient to situate “The House of Usher” in a vision of a democratic American letters, what would plant it there is the rigorously applied logic of its form. What I am thinking of, here, is Tocqueville's strident claim that American readers desire “vivid, lively emotions, sudden revelations, brilliant truths, or errors able to rouse them up and plunge them, almost by violence, into the middle of the subject.”18 I am also and most pointedly thinking of its exemplification in Poe's compositional axiomatic, that every sentence must contribute to “a certain unique or single effect.”“In the whole composition,” Poe argued, “there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.”19 What this means (to echo Derrida's well-known slogan) is that if the author perfects this standard, there should be nothing left outside the text. My conclusion, then, is that the formal construction of Poe's literature is what should ultimately determine its place within or against a national canon—and that Poe's specific design therefore provides the formal convergence of two narratives, one theoretical and the other historical. However, this determination is contingent upon the death of the author. What I want to suggest, in the following two sections, is that while “The House of Usher” typifies Poe's own compositional standard, and while that standard might theoretically situate his tale within a democratic vision of American letters, the formal particularity and historical peculiarity of his “unique or single effect” undermines the possibility of a hermetically sealed text that is in any way decoupled from its author.

Which Should Lie Within

Despite the clear delineation of text from author as realized in the separation of house and crypt, the house and the text from which it emerges are remarkably uncanny, as though Poe has returned from the crypt to haunt them both. The gothically facialized façade with its “vacant eye-like windows” (PT, 317) just about takes on the physical appearance of Poe's impressive cranium, with eyes ever in the shadow of his brow. This invitation to what might become a phrenological or psychoanalytic reading persists in the description of the house: the adjectives “insufferable,”“poetic,”“stern,”“bleak,” and “white” (317) all apply to Poe as they do to the House of Usher. Yet though it is tempting to probe “The House of Usher” with questions of Poe's own character and unconscious motives, these questions have proven equally problematic as they are banal, often serving little more purpose than to fuel readers’“lurid interest in Poe's substance abuse and sex life (or lack thereof).”20 However, if the author is haunting the “House of Usher” I believe he does so through his “unique or single effect”—through what C. Alphonso Smith valorizes as the “constructiveness” of Poe's syntax, that idiosyncratically imbricated prose which would make “The House of Usher” distinctively “Poe” or Poesque.21

The most appropriate example of this constructiveness in “The House of Usher” is what has been described as Poe's “phenomenological hypotaxis”—that is, the subordination of one clause within another or, appositely, a kind of syntactical interment. Consider the first sentence: “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher” (PT, 317). The alternation of physical (“dull, dark, and soundless,”“low in the heavens,”“shades of the evening”) and psychical (“oppressively,”“dreary,”“melancholy”) details held together by a chain of uniformly temporal connectives (“the whole,”“autumn of the year,”“when”) make this passage a perfect example of Poe's hypotaxis.22 Peter Coviello associates the “primary effects” of this “discursive form” with “the radical temporalization of being in the body: living embodiment, that is, reveals itself under such stylistic scrutiny to be an ever-unfolding sequence of microprocesses, whose ‘tortoise gradations’ are thus available to infinite, infinitely specifying, narrative description.”23 From the outset and by the rhetorical structure of this passage, we, the readers, embody the apparent trepidation of the narrator as he first draws near the eponymous house. Our embodied experience is, then, forced up against or even into “The House of Usher” and whatever it is that textual space might stand to represent.

Decidedly textual though this trait may be, it is also uniquely Poe—and, to be sure, this is how the embodied experience of reading becomes the tell-tale sign of a body sealed below the text. This idea of an encrypted prose has been named “cryptomimesis,” what psychoanalyst Jodey Castricano describes as a writing practice that “generates its uncanny effects” by calling attention to a prose that is predicated upon encryption or, here, upon the crypt.24 What I want to suggest, then, is that rather than being sealed within the crypt, Poe is encrypted rhetorically and thus perceptibly within the text. For instance, at that crucial moment when the narrator and Roderick seal Madeline within the crypt, the text reads: “We replaced and screwed down the lid, and, having secured the door of iron, made our way, with toil, into the scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of the house” (PT, 329). Though this sentence metaphorically and thematically epitomizes the idea of text as predicated on the death of its author, its syntax could also be read as cryptomimetic: the highly constructed “tortoise gradations” would suggest that, as our embodied reading is directed back toward the “scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of the house,” away from the crypt and back into the realm of text, perhaps we are in the presence of a dead author. It is, of course, Poe who is making toilsome our climb up the stairs.

One way to start making sense of this presence would be through Derridean hauntology, which supposes that “it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept,” or, in this context, into the construction of a text.25 After sealing Madeline in the crypt (as Barthes did with Poe), the narrator is haunted in a prose whose syntax now converges with its metaphorical and thematic signification—he is haunted by “certain low and indefinite sounds which c[o]me, through the pauses of the storm, at long intervals, [he] kn[ows] not whence.”“An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame,” the narrator informs us, “and, at length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm” (PT, 330). The protracted temporal connectives (“long intervals,”“gradually,”“at length”) while coupled with the narrator's uncertainty toward physical details (“indefinite,”“knew not whence”) and his uncontrollable psychical reaction (“irrepressible terror,”“causeless alarm”) render the embodied experience, irrationality, and uncanny effect of a haunting. It is through syntactical constructiveness that Poe haunts “The House of Usher,” but a haunting is not necessarily an undeath; it tells us very little about the dead author, only about his rhetorical predilections. Undeath would require opening that iron door between text and crypt and letting the dead author pass on through.

The Body Encoffined

By evoking Hamlet's rhyme—“The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King, is a thing”—Derrida sets out to explicate the physics of hauntology.26 Playing on the laws of secession, he makes the point that the ghost of Hamlet's father is far detached from its physical remains, whereas the body referred to in fact belongs to the recently deceased Polonius.27 Derrida therefore sees haunting as reanimation without physical return. Contrary to this, I have likened authorial Poe to Madeline Usher, whose return is, if anything, resolutely physical. First appearing in the shadows, she is portrayed as a “lofty and enshrouded figure,” and so, at this point, she still merely haunts “The House of Usher” as does Poe in an apparition or presence. However, the narrator goes on to describe the “blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame.” Then, as though giving weight to her viscera—and having modulated from hypotaxis to a parataxis that will be sustained for the rest of the tale—the narrator recounts: “With a low moaning cry, [Madeline] fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated” (PT, 335, emphases added). Here, undead Madeline is far from the Derridean specter; rather, she is a distinctly physical body returned from the crypt to materialize in syntactical form. And so, if the undeath of the author parallels that of Madeline, as though it is with her that Poe had imagined his own death and afterlife, then Hamlet's description of the body rather than of the king should also apply to Poe as it does to Polonius. What characterizes the body of Polonius, Hamlet declares, is that “a certain convocation of politic worms are [eating] at him.”“We fat all creatures else to fat us,” he continues, “and we fat ourselves for maggots.”28 Perhaps this is the appearance of Poe as he emerges from the crypt and into significance: he is not just the uncanny specter but also a resurrected corpse, teaming with worms and maggots as he lives on in form.

While I argued that the idea of an American literature—for all its democratic ideals—coheres with Deleuze and Guatarri's theory of the rhizome, I now want to suggest that, within their schema, Poe's worms and maggots might carry some theoretical weight of their own. Though Barthes would argue that the “multiplicity of writing” is to be “ranged over, not pierced,” Deleuze and Guattari propose that, beneath this multiplicity and ready to pierce its surface, there are “larvae and loathsome worms, and a God at work messing it all up or strangling it by organizing it.”29 The cadaverous flesh of Poe sustains such larvae and loathsome worms, but he is also the Author-God at work, organizing “The House of Usher” in cryptomimesis and thereby encrypting himself within the text. The shift from hypotaxis to parataxis signals his return: “It was the work of the rushing gust—” (PT, 335) we read as Madeline appears in the doorway, with the protruding em-dash giving punctual form to a piercing worm. But whom, exactly, does Poe strangle?

Poe “messes up” the democratically American text of “The House of Usher” with the possibility of “territorialization”—with a constrictive force inimically opposed to the Jeffersonian and Tocquevillian ideals for a democratic America and its letters. Resonating with the “inherent and inalienable rights” of Jefferson, Tocqueville proclaimed that “law will grant equal civil liberty to all of the inhabitants of the same empire, as God accords the freedom of the will, without distinction, to the dwellers upon earth.”30 Roderick's doleful song, “The Haunted Palace,” antithetically exposits either an anti-abolitionist racism or a mossback monarchism: he sings of “a hideous throng” who “rush out [of the castle] forever,” having revolted against “the wit and wisdom of their king” (PT, 327, 326). Mourned, here, is the desolation, as

round about his home, the glory

That blushed and bloomed

Is but a dim-remembered story

Of the old time entombed.


While the obvious counterargument would be that such racism or monarchism is mouthed by the European figure of whom Poe is supposedly critical, the undeath of the tale's author yields two arguments grounding that anti-abolitionist or monarchistic logic back in textual composition and then in the text itself. At its compositional level, Poe's undeath returns to his tale the presence of an author who infamously espoused similar sentiments in his contributions to the Southern Literary Messenger.31 Although Poe's racial politics have always been a point of contention, that he is considered to have written favorable reviews of racist propaganda quite possibly sets those tales he haunts—which sometimes contain elements concomitant with such propaganda—at odds with the fantasy of a democratic America. His undeath is an uncanny reminder of that disjuncture.

Yet such a reminder would not be reason enough to impact on a literary text's position in relation to its national canon, for that would evade the question of form and so the politics of literature; what would, I believe, is that reminder's confluence with the strictly formal and therefore literary means by which we arrived at the author's undeath. The syntactical construction of the tale directs us, in the embodied experience of reading, through the suffocating bowels of “The House of Usher.” Here, the author exerts control over his reader, keeping her in bondage with the narrator, until that narrator and, with him, the reader paratactically “rush out forever,” away from the hypotactic “glory” of “a dim-remembered story /Of the old time entombed.”“His long improvised dirges will ring forever in my ears,” recalls the narrator: “I hold painfully in mind a certain singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber” (PT, 324). The “unique or single effect” of Poe's tale is, then, to take hold of the reader's body and to counterpoise her uncanny uncertainty with the domineering “wit and wisdom” of his “entombed” yet authorial self. This act of upstaging blocks the closure of Poe's tale while ensuring its lasting impact and his own lingering presence, the achievement of which contravenes the precepts of poststructuralism as well as the logic of a democratic American letters. And so it is from beyond the grave that Poe, as the formal embodiment of his own narrative, will neither loosen his grip nor relinquish his tale to anything so deadening as “text.”


  • 1

    Sigmund Freud, Art and Literature: Jensen's “Gradiva,”“Leonardo da Vinci,” and Other Works, trans. James Strachey, ed. Albert Dickson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985), 369, 351.

  • 2

    Colin Davis, Haunted Subjects: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and the Return of the Dead (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 9.

  • 3

    Scott Peeples, The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Camden House, 2004), ix.

  • 4

    Peeples, Afterlife, 85. See Joseph N. Riddel, Purloined Letters: Originality and Repetition in American Literature, ed. Mark Bauerlein (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1995). For more self-consciously post-Barthes and poststructuralist criticism, see Dennis Pahl, Architects of the Abyss: The Indeterminate Fictions of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1989); Michael J. S. Williams, A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1988); and John T. Irwin, American Hieroglyphics: The Symbol of Egyptian Hieroglyphics in the American Renaissance (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980).

  • 5

    See Jacques Rancière, “The Politics of Literature,” in Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steven Corcoran (London: Continuum, 2010), 152–69.

  • 6

    A similar argument might also be made with regard to the fiction of Herman Melville and Nathanial Hawthorne. See, for instance, Bryan C. Short, Cast by Means of Figures: Herman Melville's Rhetorical Development (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992); and G. R. Thompson, The Art of Authorial Presence: Hawthorne's Provincial Tales (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1993).

  • 7

    Roland Barthes, Image—Music—Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 143.

  • 8

    Barthes, Image—Music—Text, 148.

  • 9

    Barthes, Image—Music—Text, 146–47. For a full-blooded rendition of this type of analysis, see David Ketterer, “‘Shudder’: A Signature Crypt-ogram in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’”Resources for American Literary Study 25, no. 2 (1999): 192–205.

  • 10

    See, for instance, John Carlos Rowe, “Edgar Allan Poe's Imperial Fantasy and the American Frontier,” in Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race, ed. J. Gerald Kennedy and Liliane Weissberg (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), 75–105; and Meredith L. McGill, “Poe, Literary Nationalism, and Authorial Identity,” in The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Shawn Rosenheim and Stephen Rachman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995), 271–304. The best and possibly the most influential study on Poe with regard to antebellum culture is Terence Whalen's Edgar Allan Poe and the Masses: The Political Economy of Literature in Antebellum America (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999).

  • 11

    Thomas Jefferson, “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled,” in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume A, ed. Nina Baym et al., 6th ed. (London: Norton, 2003), 732.

  • 12

    Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 473.

  • 13

    Jefferson, “Declaration,” 728.

  • 14

    Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980–1987, trans. Brian Massumi (London: Continuum, 1987), 4. For a detailed explanation of Deleuze and Guattari's complex relationship with democracy, see Paul Patton, Deleuzian Concepts: Philosophy, Colonization, Politics (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2010).

  • 15

    Barthes, Image—Music—Text, 146.

  • 16

    “October 4, 1845,” in ER, 1076.

  • 17

    J. Gerald Kennedy, “‘A Mania for Composition’: Poe’s Annus Mirabilis and the Violence of Nation-Building,”American Literary History 17, no. 1 (2005): 6. See also David Leverenz, “Poe and Gentry Virginia,” in The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Shawn Rosenheim and Stephen Rachman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995), 210–36.

  • 18

    Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer and Max Lerner, trans. George Lawrence (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 441.

  • 19

    Edgar Allan Poe, “Nathaniel Hawthorne,” in ER, 572.

  • 20

    Peeples, Afterlife, 63. Peeples offers a broad overview of psychoanalytic readings of Poe in chap. 2, “A Dream within a Dream: Poe and Psychoanalysis,” 29–62.

  • 21

    C. Alphonso Smith, cited in Peeples, Afterlife, 19. See also Louis A. Renza, “Poe's Secret Autobiography,” in The American Renaissance Reconsidered: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1982–83, ed. Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1985), 58–89.

  • 22

    Though the above analysis is my own, my design for Poe’s “phenomenological hypotaxis” is taken from Peter Coviello, “Poe in Love: Pedophilia, Morbidity, and the Logic of Slavery,”ELH 70 (2003): 883.

  • 23

    Coviello, “Poe in Love,” 883.

  • 24

    Jodey Castricano, Crytpomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida’s Ghost Writing (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 2001), 6.

  • 25

    Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge, 1994), 202.

  • 26

    Derrida, Specters, 8. See William Shakespeare, Hamlet, in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (New York: Oxford Univ. Press), 4.2.26–27.

  • 27

    Derrida, Specters, 8–10.

  • 28

    Shakespeare, Hamlet, 4.3.19–23.

  • 29

    Barthes, Image—Music—Text, 147; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980–1987, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (London: Continuum, 1983), 9.

  • 30

    Jefferson, “Declaration,” 732; Alexis de Tocqueville, “Testimony against Slavery,”Liberty Bell (1855); quoted in Matthew J. Mancini, Alexis de Tocqueville and Ame- rican Intellectuals: From His Times to Ours (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), 62.

  • 31

    The debates concerning Poe’s racism receive lengthy consideration in Maurice S. Lee, “Absolute Poe: His System of Transcendental Racism,”American Literature 75 (2003): 751–81. For consideration of racism in “The House of Usher,” see David Leverenz, “Spanking the Master: Mind-Body Crossings in Poe's Sensationalism,” in A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. Gerald Kennedy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), 95–128.