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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Poe’s production of magazine tales led to an intellectual preoccupation with terror—its origins, meanings, and effects. Read as analytical investigations into the causes of dread, many of Poe’s narratives offer striking insights into contemporary terrorism. Reexamining the events of 9/11 with Poe’s theory of the prose tale in mind, we understand better why symbolically unified events, orchestrated into dramatic action unfolding in ninety minutes, created sensational, overwhelming effects. Jean Baudrillard’s deconstruction of uncanny doubling in the 9/11 spectacle conversely explains the terrifying symbolic logic of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe claimed that terror arises from the soul, but threats from antebellum culture impelled his fiction: consumption, pestilence, premature burial, slave rebellion, and mob violence. Three tales—“The Man of the Crowd,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “Hop-Frog”—employ different strategies to analyze the creation and weaponizing of terror as well as how it may be demystified and managed.

Keywords: terror, terrorism, mortality salience, death, rational analysis

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