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date: 21 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Poe’s 1838 tale “Ligeia” epitomizes the stylistic effects and themes we usually recognize as Poesque: from the Gothic setting to daydreaming, from the poeticized vocabulary to the dense materiality of hallucinatory descriptions, from the narrator’s unreliability to the dramatic and collapsing ending. Considering major interpretations of “Ligeia” that discuss its language and style as well as its racial, queer, and colonial implications, this chapter seeks to demonstrate what makes “Ligeia” a paradigmatic tale in the Poe canon. Specifically, by modernizing Gothic conventions and by pushing the Romantic sublime to the limits of sensational prose, “Ligeia” invents a new sensibility that makes the tale strikingly modern, despite its often archaic and odd vocabulary. To argue this point, the chapter focuses on two contextual frameworks that have hitherto received lesser critical attention: the tale’s embeddedness in contemporary print culture, the first venue of its publication in particular; and the function of the Medusa myth and Medusa-inspired imagery in “Ligeia.”

Keywords: Edgar Allan Poe, paradigmatic, language, anamorphic perspective, print media, The American Museum, Romantic sublime, Medusa myth, modern sensibility

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