College of Liberal Arts

Department of English

 

John Hughes
"Poe's Resentful Soul"

This article describes the peculiar intimacies and complexities of Poe's fiction in terms of an underlying and pervasive attitude of resentment. While drawing throughout on Poe criticism and biography, its main debt is to Gilles Deleuze's analyses of Nietzsche's man of resentiment. For such a psychic type, as for Poe, resentment is an emotion that both constitutes and undermines identity, since it defines the mind, but as a structure of grievance and repetition. Within this schema, reason and consciousness are inseparable from the incompatible influences of formative and immermorial feelings--of abandonment, powerlessness, and loss--and the compensatory plots of aggression and self-elevation that they engender.

In its detail, the article explores how in tale after tale Poe stages and interrogates such a psychic predicament, reiterating and enacting the malign interpersonal logic involved. As resentment seeks to reverse an abiding feeling of subjection by triumphantly visiting it upon another person, so the resentful machinations of Poe's tales obsessively reiterate rivalrous scenarious--designedly immuring the reader, as well as the characters, within the tomb of interiority that is the resentful self. The article explores further the strange doublings and exchanges of identity, the anachronistic temporality, and the ambivalences of feeling that are involved in this conception of ressentiment. In doing so, it touches on many of the related complications that determine the co

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

     

     

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