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date: 11 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines the place of contingency in Poe’s fiction through a reading of “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842), a text that presents an extended meditation on “accident,” “probability,” and “coincidence.” It surveys extant criticism on Poe and chance and then addresses that question in the language of queer theory. What is queer about “Marie Rogêt,” I argue, is unsymbolizable, like the Real in Lacan’s account and located, paradoxically, both at the origin of the narrative and as a belated addition: evidence eventually suggested that the real woman on whom Marie Rogêt was based died in an abortion attempt, not murder. In an economy of reproductive futurism, abortion is no less a threat to futurity than the deathly negativity of the homosexual: in Poe’s text, both are aligned with a radical contingency that Dupin cannot translate into linear, narrative causality and that therefore remains fundamentally unspeakable.

Keywords: Edgar Allan Poe, contingency, chance, “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, ” queer, abortion, reproduction, narrative, sexuality

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