Abstract

Within a Lacanian psychoanalytic framework, this paper examines the aesthetic effects of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” (1845), specifically those effects produced by the poem’s sublime architectonics of present-absence. While critics have examined the role of the sublime and uncanny in the poem, most of these studies have focused on providing an historical context for Poe’s aesthetics or establishing cultural sources for the poem’s symbolic imagery. By contrast, I aim to demonstrate that both the form and content of “The Raven” anticipate the psychoanalytic, specifically Freudian-Lacanian, concept of das Ding—the mythical “Thing”—which Jacques Lacan, in Seminar VII, argues is the lost object “attached to whatever is open, lacking, or gaping at the center of our desire.” Because, according to Lacan’s theory, this concept names the void around which human subjectivity forms and all subsequent desire turns, art functions, in essence, to “creat[e] the void and thereby introduce[e] the possibility of filling it.” In this paper, I examine both how the void is staged through aesthetic means in “The Raven” and “filled” by the enigmatic raven, which takes on the function of a sublime object in the speaker’s fantasy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-2932
Print ISSN
2150-0428
Pages
pp. 116-141
Launched on MUSE
2016-11-17
Open Access
No
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