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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the appearance of historical details in short stories about near-death experiences. It examines in particular how “A Descent into the Maelström” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” refer to pre-Anglo-Saxon forms of New World colonization (Viking and Spanish) as a way of agitating readers’ anxieties about the rise of American civilization. These references provide examples through which to rethink the conflict between historicist and allegorical interpretations of Poe’s work. In particular, his oblique representations of Manifest Destiny and white supremacy look differently when read through the metahistorical notion of the “course of empire,” with its inevitable end in moral decay. The chapter concludes by pointing out how Poe’s scheme of extreme individual experience against the backdrop of long-durational historical narrative was taken up by Frantz Fanon, who focused on the psychological predicament of the native in a very different story of empire.

Keywords: Edgar Allan Poe, metahistory, postcolonialism, course of empire, survival stories, allegory

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