Presentation on theme: "“The Fall of the House of Usher”"— Presentation transcript:
1 “The Fall of the House of Usher” Edgar Allan Poe1839
2 “The Fall of the House of Usher” The gothic context of the taleThe doubling motif of the taleThe function of setting in the taleThe structural unity of the tale
3 The Gothic literary tradition Begun in eighteenth century EnglandNovelistsHorace WalpoleAnn RadcliffeMatthew “Monk” LewisPopular form in British literary journalsImported into American short story - 19th centuryKey ingredient was sensationalism
4 Gothic Architecture in America Started in US about 1840Steeply pitched roofsPointed arch windowsElaborate trim around roof edgesHigh dormersLancet windows
5 Poe’s “house of Usher” looks more like a medieval castle or English cathedral in Gothic style
6 The house might look something like this (from a photograph by Simon Marsden in his Visions of Poe)
7 Elements of Gothic Writing Emphasis on settingExterior: landscapeInterior: housesCastle-like architectureCharacters are brooding, secretiveBuried family secretsLong history of family tied to place
8 The Doubling MotifIn literary criticism, this is called a “doppelganger,” from the German for “double-goer”Examples are:Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson)The Secret Sharer (Joseph Conrad)
9 What function does the doppelganger motif serve? Represents the dual nature of manIn Poe, one side of man is reason, or the mindThe other is emotion, or the bodyRoderick and Madeleine are genetically twins, but psychologically they are also doubles.
10 Who Represents What? Roderick An artist figure (509) Nervous agitation (509)Lives in dark upstairs apartment (511)Cadaverous complexion (511)“want of moral energy” (511)“excessive nervous agitation” (511-12)
11 Roderick’s mental condition is affected by his environment “He was enchanted by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted An effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence.” (512)
12 Here, “physique” refers to something physical And “morale” refers to something mentalRoderick is all mind in a weak bodyHe represents in one way the life of the isolated artistPaintingsReadingGuitar playing
13 Madeleine Illness has debilitated her All descriptions focus on the body“gradual wasting away of the person” (513)Roderick and the narrator screw down the lid of her coffin (518)She returns from the tomb to reclaim her twin brother, her “double”“the huge antique panels…threw back” (521)She “fell heavily inward upon…her brother and…bore him to the floor a corpse”
14 What is Poe’s point?Poe addresses the dual and conflicted nature of the SelfMind and body are at war with each other in each of usWe try to repress one side and live without itBut we cannot achieve a harmonious existence in this way
15 The Function of Setting - Exterior The “house of Usher” has two meaningsThe physical dwellingThe family line, or lineage“the entire family lay in the direct line of descent”
16 The house is also a type of character in the story Like the family, it is of “an excessive antiquity” (510)The landscape is overgrown and raggedOn the front down the middle is “a barely perceptible fissure” going in “a zigzag direction” (510)
17 Interior Setting Gothic architecture (511) “windows were long, narrow and pointed”“feeble gleams of encrimsoned light”“dark draperies”“atmosphere of sorrow”Roderick lives upstairs (mind)Madeleine is entombed below ground (body)
18 Structure and Unity Poe creates texts within texts “The Haunted Palace” (poem) reflects the Usher family life in the house (515)“The Mad Trist” (story) parallels Madeleine’s return from the graveThe storm outside is analogous to the turmoil inside the characters in the houseThe book titles in Roderick’s library are symbolic of the themes of the story
19 Roderick’s Library “the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D’Indagine” “the Directorium Inquisitorum”“old African Satyrs, over which Usher would sit dreaming for hours” (516-17)
20 Poe’s Theory of Literary Unity Poe earned his living as a “magazinist,” not a fiction writer.He was an editor and reviewer for many major magazines.Poe wrote a great deal of literary criticism, literary theory, and book reviews.His theory of literary unity was articulated in a review of Hawthorne’s collection of stories, Twice-Told Tales in 1842
21 An author should “conceive, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, [and] then invent such … events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect.In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.
22 Unity in “Fall of the House of Usher” First and last paragraphs are mirror images of each other, creating symmetryThe texts-within-text reinforce the central themeThe house itself symbolizes the split in the familyThe construction of the house reflects a “perfect adaptation of parts” (510)
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