Edgar Poe and Postmodernism

By Tamari Cheishvili.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Poe’s fascination with madness and perverseness resonates with heightened Western/American, post-Freudian awareness of the unconscious and the irrational. Poe explores the varieties of insanity and illustrates symptomatic phobias, obsessions and hallucinations. In “Usher” he portrays a distinctly postmodern world that seems altogether solipsistic, dehumanized, and “derealized” - a realm of bizarre.

Poe’s appeal to such American postmodernists as T. Pynchon and J. Barth, however, derives not only from his projections of violence or insanity but also from his articulations of estrangement and doubt. Estrangement figures importantly in Poe’s narrative scheme as well as American postmodernist fiction. This tendency of Poe’s writings reflects contemporary cultural and socioeconomic changes. More than a century earlier than postmodernists Poe sarcastically portrayed the alienating consequences of the market revolution. His tale “The Man of the Crowd” conveys a prescient awareness of metropolitan alienation, describes the city as a desolate, dehumanized place.

Poe prefigured the skepticism and uncertainty that spread from the 19th century into our own era. In the works of Pynchon we have grown accustomed to the black void that seems to define the condition of modern being. We may speak of a postmodern cult of death that reveals in fantasies of sadism, masochism, and annihilation; in place of a loving God, it reveres a hypostatized figure of universal destruction, similar to the one evoked in the closing sentence of “The masque of the Red Death.”

Writing at the advent of the so-called post-Christian epoch, Poe gave memorable literary form to the conflicted imaginary of the modern consciousness. As instanced by his powerful hold on such celebrated postmodern authors as John Barth and Pynchon, Poe remains an inescapable presence in contemporary culture. And although academic disagreements about his achievements persists, his place in the pantheon of enduring American authors is secure.

Keywords: Postmodernism, Irrational, Unconscious, Insanity, Dehumanization, Estrangement, Alienation

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp.95-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 602.348KB).

Dr. Tamari Cheishvili

Teacher of English and American Literature, Department of West European and American Literature, Akaki Tsereteli State University, Kutaisi, Georgia

I am a PhD candidate at Akaki Tsereteli State University. My doctoral thesis is ‘Edgar Poe and the ‘Gothic’ Elements in the 20th Century American Fiction’. At the same time I teach English and American literature both at undergraduate and graduate levels.My scholarly interests are: Anglo-American Literature of XIX and XX centuries; Anglo-American Literary Relations (Comparative Approach); Anglo-American Romanticism; American Postmodern Fiction and Poetry; “Gothic” Fiction; American Culture (Drama and Theatre). I have published a number of essays on Edgar Poe and American ‘Gothic’ fiction in various scholarly journals and editions. I have participated in 10 international conferences on literature and U. S. Studies in Georgia and abroad. As a grantee recently I participated in the U.S. Department of State Program ‘SUSI (Study of the United States Institute) on Contemporary American Literature” (an intensive post-graduate course) at Louisville University.

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