In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Dawn Keetley Pregnant Women and Envious Men in “Morella,”“Berenice,”“Ligeia,”and “TheFall of the House of Usher” “Morella”(1835) is the lone storyof Poe’s that is unambiguouslyabout pregnancy. However, while the consensusview has it that, in Gillian Brown’s words, Morella is the “onlywoman in Poe’s tales to leave biological issue,” her act of birthing anticipates an as-yet-unrecognized possibility in “Berenice” (1835), “Ligeia” (1838), and “The Fall of the House of Usher”(1839).l Thesestories seem preoccupiedwith women’sreproductivityfraught with images of pregnancy and childbirth that eruptwithoutlogicor reason.Even “Morella,” though,which issoobviouslyaboutpregnancy,has rarelybeen discussedassuch.2Brown,whoat least registersthe role of procreation in the tale,writes that Poe’s “necrophilic interest in women quite distinctivelyeschews their given generativepower and their role in the perpetuation of the specie^."^ I argue instead that, far from denying women’s “generativepower,”Poe’s “necrophilicinterest in women” is closely tied to their procreativeness: while dead and dyingwomen are now established as central themes in the Poe canon, parturient women-mothers-constitute a similarly crucial thematic. While freighted with the imagery of pregnancy,Poe’s fiction is, however,marked by a deep-seated and enraged denial of precisely that reproductivity.But why?Why are Poe’s male characters seeminglyso blind to women’s sexual and procreative nature?Why does pregnancy register only unconsciously and then as somethingloathsome and temfylng? Melanie Klein’s concept of envy helps to explain why the narrators of “Morella,”“Berenice,” and “Ligeia,”aswell asRoderickUsher,allseemto want the “mother”to die,withouteverbeingquite awareofthatfact.Not least,Poe’sstoriesdramatize the allconsuming relationship between mother and childupon which Kleinianenvyispredicated: in eachstory,the maleprotagonistplaysoutunconsciousmomentsof hisbirth and earlyexperiences with femalecharacterspersistentlyidentifiedwith images of procreativeness.With equal insistence, Morella,Berenice,Ligeia,Rowena,and Madeline are associated with images of gothic horror. In Klein’s view, the early motherchild bond is similarlyscarredwith fear and hostility-even “gothic complexity,”asJanice Doane and Devon Hodges put it.The constitutionalenvythat Klein attributes to infantsisan integralpart of this “gothic”bond.4 Envy,in Klein’s 1957essay“Envyand Gratitude,”is the deep-seatedurge to spoil,devour,and destroy the primalobject,the m ~ t h e r . ~ Itisan impulsethat seemsuncannilyakin to the paranoia, terror, and annihilating rage to which Poe’s male characters succumb when confronted with intimations of Morella’s, Berenice’s, Ligeia’s, Rowena’s, and Madeline’sreproductivity.For Klein,no less than for Poe, the mother-infant bond is always perilously close to slipping from an evanescent ideal to an oppositeand unbearable horror. This essay proposes,then, that Klein’stheoryof envyhelpsto explain how imagesof women’sprocreativityand men’spersecutoryfearand violentaggressionare bound together in Poe’sstories. I do not want to rest on this argument alone, however, not leastbecauseit presumes that Kleinianenvyistrue insometranscendentand universal way. Thusthisessayarguesfurther that both Klein’s theory of envy and its dramatic anticipation in Poe’s short stories are predicated on specific historical conditions.6Klein would mostly disagree with the claim,insistingthat envy,a manifestation of the deathdrive,isinnateand thusrelativelyresis- 2 Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism tant to externalcircumstances;in his theory of the perverse-the driveto dowhatoneshouldn’t,what is harmful to oneself-Poe seems to agree that humans are compelled by a fundamentally selfdestructive force.’ But the fact that Klein viewed envy as directed first and with an insistentinevitability at the motheris to a large degree the result of her unwaveringassumptionthat the mother forms an immediateand exclusiverelationshipwith the infant-pervaded firstby anger,paranoia,and fear and only later, with difficulty, by love. Moreover, when describing early infantileexperience,Klein (like most object-relations psychoanalysts) gives scantattention to the realmother,dwellingon the mother the infant apprehends-a mother who is almostcompletelyan introjectedobjectof fantasy. According to Doane and Hodges, “Klein’stheory of the child so marginalized the ‘real’mother as the innocent stimulusof infantile processes of introjectionand projection that sheremainsa figure almostemptyof agencyand subjectivity.”The real mother in Klein vanishes, replaced by a “spectral mother,” who is the infant’s psychic object, produced by his vacillating impulses of idealization and destruction.8 This mother, however,is perhaps as much the f a n t q ofKkin herself,shapedasKlein inevitablywas both by a psychoanalytictraditionand by a culture that has been more interestedin promotingan ideal than recognizing the reality of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 1-16
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.