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date: 12 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines what many scholars consider the most accomplished and representative of Poe’s tales, “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839). After a brief overview of the main axes of interpretation in the story’s reception history, it proposes an analysis of the tale’s main narrative strategy, the unreliable narrator, which is typical of Poe’s short fiction in general. Linking this device to the unstable architectonics of the house in the story, the chapter shows how the unreliability of the narrator lies at the heart of the text’s ability to choreograph active reader participation. It also historicizes the specific kind of unreliable narrators that Poe favors—those lacking a moral conscience or ethically informed perception—in the context of antebellum debates about slavery.

Keywords: Edgar Allan Poe, House of Usher, unreliable narrator, antebellum, conscience, reader participation, slavery, race

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