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MARGINALIA This section is devoted to notes, comments, and replies. We wish to provide here an outlet for source studies and focused interpretations that do not feature the extended argument and proof customary in articles, for items of special interest that otherwise might not appear, and for formal exchanges on relevant scholarly and critical issues. Contributions should generally be from one to four paragraphs in length, although notes extending to five typescript pages are acceptable; all documentation should appear in brackets within the text. “IrregularlyDisposed” Rooms in “TheMasque of the Red Death”and Brett Zimmerman’s “Half”Dodecagon In Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetm’c and S t y l e [Montreal: McGill Queen’s Univ. Press, 20051,Brett Zimmerman provides a useful defense of Poe as an accomplished stylist and rhetorician. However, the number of people who will read this book in its entirety will be far surpassed by the number who will glance at, and be influenced by, a fullpage diagram titled (inaccurately) “Prospero’s Clock-Abbey’’ [54]. This diagram represents the seven rooms constructed by Prince Prosper0 in “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842) to keep out the plague of life (or “the fever called ‘Living’”in Poe’s 1849 poem “ForAnnie” [Works, 1:457]) as the 6 to 12 half of a dodecagon-shaped clockface. In a book replete with technical terminology, Zimmerman does not use the g e e metrical term: a dodecagon is a polygon with twelve sides and twelve angles. If this layout is to be understood as half a clockface, it would make more sense to identlfy the hour numbers 6 to 12 with six of those angles, but Zimmerman wants to equate the seven rooms with those seven numbers (leaving an absent five rooms for the hours 1 to 5). His diagram of these seven rooms as half of a clockface is a misrepresentation because they would actually comprise half a clockface plus one adjacent segment of the other half. The problem is that Zimmerman wants the minute hand to progress only thirty minutes from 6 to 12 in order to accord with the claim in the tale’s first paragraph that “the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour” [Wwks,26701. Zimmerman’s title for his diagram gives the impression that the seven rooms constitute the entire abbey; in fact they constitute only “an imperial suite” within it. More importantly, how accurate is his conception of the arrangement of these rooms? This is what the tale’s narrator tells us: In many palaces. ..such suitesform a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the wallsoneitherhand,so thattheviewof thewholeextent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different. . . .The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embracedbut little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. [W&, 2:67] The novel effects are largely created by the artificial light from fire braziers in the corridors either side “the windings of the suite,” filtered through windows tinted blue-purple, green, orange, white, violet, and, finally, scarlet. The “sharpturn” that one must make in moving from one room to the next (if the “twenty or thirty yards” is the distance from one set of doors to the next)-presumably a turn approaching or exceeding ninety degree-is not what we find with Zimmerman’s seven rectangular rooms. The seven turns are each identically gentle and Mara’nalia 77 that would remain the case even if Zimmerman’s half clockfacewere accuratelydiagrammed as six rooms. The “sharpturn”from room to room only makes sense if they are arranged as some kind of zigzag, an understanding that Zimmerman rejects: “Some readers have assumed that the words ‘irregularlydisposed’ describe a suite of rooms that twists and turns haphazardly with no real discernable pattern; Jeffrey Meyers, for instance,writes of the ‘zigzagconstruction of the rooms’” [53;also see Meyers, EdgarAllan Poe:His Lifundhgaq (NewYorkScribner’s,1992),1341. I share Meyers’sview. There is no way of telling from the information provided by Poe’s narrator which rooms are twenty yards...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 76-78
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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