The prevalence of ontological and thematic approaches to Poe’s poetry has made understanding and appreciation of its highly innovative procedures very difficult. The poetry operates primarily through strong phonosemantic protocols, however, and as such its interpretation ought to be primarily performative—as one insists that interpreting a piece of music means executing a deliberated performance. “The Bells” provides an exemplary case of how Poe organizes his poetry as a challenge to reader performance. The poem presents a set of performance options whose function is to require the reader to make a declarative presentation of what s/he understands the poem to mean—that is, how s/he understands the poem’s performative options should be executed. The particular performance—various options are on offer—license an array of particular interpretations that answer exactly to the particular character of the poetic work.


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pp. 47-58
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