Abstract

Time and space are integral conditions of Poe’s transcendent sublime. This article traces the way disparate temporal registers and uncanny enclosed spaces create dislocations that are also invitations—experiences of escape and liberation for the artist. Using “The Fall of the House of Usher,” I analyze a clash of spatiotemporal orders, showing these to be salient features of the tale and the Romantic experience. In its brevity and unity, “The Fall of the House of Usher” provides a concentrated example of the capacity of mutually exclusive registers to coexist—one linear, chronological, and rational; the other repetitive, recursive, and uncanny. The effect is “ecstatic” and formal, a matter of artistic stricture that is unique to the properties of the brief tale. This essay combines a formalist and Bakhtinian analyses of “Usher” against the broader subject of Poe’s modern and Romantic sensibility. Poe utilized his period’s changing experience of time as well as Romantic notions of captive and isolating space to produce a uniquely morbid yet liberating aesthetic. Stricture, tightness, and spiral—the unification of disparate, irreconcilable registers—are shown to be the formal mechanisms of conversion that produce transcendence for Roderick Usher and the shape of Poe’s sublime.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-2932
Print ISSN
2150-0428
Pages
pp. 54-72
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-11
Open Access
No
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