FREE ELECTRONIC LIBRARY - Online materials, documents

Pages:     | 1 |   ...   | 19 | 20 || 22 | 23 |   ...   | 40 |

«Small, Douglas Robert John (2013) Dementia's jester: the Phantasmagoria in metaphor and aesthetics from 1700-1900. PhD thesis. ...»

-- [ Page 21 ] --

In these passages, we get the sense of the insubstantial and, more importantly, incomprehensible nature of thought. The mind is at the mercy of external influences – alienated from itself and its own actions. The narrator’s attempt to reorder these actions by simply reordering the elements of the scene proves the whimsical nature of thought and the characters’ inability to resist this. It is suggested that continued exposure to this place has had a profound effect, not just upon Usher himself, but his whole lineage: ‘an effect which the physique of the grey 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’.87 But, what exactly is the ‘morale’ of Usher’s existence? He is certainly melancholic, afflicted with hypochondria, prone to fatalism and to ‘an excessive nervous agitation’,88 which manifests itself sometimes in abstruse philosophising and fantasy and sometimes in a frighteningly intense kind of mental application. So intense is this mental activity and collectedness that the narrator compares it more than once to the effects of opium or alcohol.89 Usher’s mind, it seems, has reached the point of being able to intoxicate itself, so that what would conventionally be termed ‘intoxication,’ has become its normal state of being. Usher dwells in a realm that is part dream, part nightmare, recalling Mercier’s enraptured response to Robertson’s phantasmagoria (‘it is the dream in which we live’).90 What Poe also gives us, though, is an extended description of Usher’s personal tastes. Like the painting that he produces, Usher’s aesthetic preferences are primarily intended to be a reflection of his mental state. Consequently, his tastes are everywhere for the strange, the intricate, the highly refined and the bizarre. In effect, Usher’s taste, in books, music and painting, is for the curious. For example, we are told that Usher’s love of music, in classically curious form, runs to ‘a passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 131.

Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 130.

See Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 131 and 134.

Cohen, Profane Illumination, 244.

to the orthodox and easily recognisable beauties, of musical science’.91 This regard for intricacy, for elaborateness and strangeness, rather than for more conventional merits, is a hallmark of the curious taste. Even the phantasmagorical painting that illustrates Usher’s mind would once, with its strange optical effects, tricks of perspective and choice of subject, have been regarded as a very curious work. Thomas Browne describes similar sorts of work in his Musæum Clausum with similarly curious tricks of colour and shading.92 In essence, in rendering the phantasmagorical quality of Usher’s mind, Poe reproduces the curious aesthetic; he develops a kind of parity between the curious and the phantasmagorical where the taste for the curious is not only symptomatic of the deranged and phantasmagorical mind, but also co-opted into a phantasmagorical aesthetic. The passage in which this becomes most explicit is the one in which Poe

describes Usher’s library:

–  –  –

Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 127.

Thomas Browne, The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, Vol. 3, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Faber, 1964), 113.

–  –  –

In this passage we can see a clear overlap of curious and phantasmagorical influences.

Thomas Mabbot greatly enlarges on Poe’s descriptions of these works in his essay ‘The Books in the House of Usher’, and in doing so makes what Poe calls their ‘character of phantasm’ even more obvious. All of these works have odd, contradictory and unclassifiable natures or expound strange varieties of philosophy and mythology. Niccolo Machiavelli’s Belfagor arcidiavolo describes a fallen angel who comes to earth where he performs several acts of demonic possession until he finally returns to hell to escape his shrewish wife; the works on chiromancy (palmreading) describe ‘a mysterious relation between the stars, the configuration of the palms, and so forth; that is, between the microcosm and macrocosm’;94 and Swedenbourg’s Heaven and Hell relates mystical visions of the nature of the afterlife.

At one time, such works would have readily found their way into the library of the curioso; the words ‘curious’ is even used to describe the Vigiliae Mortuorum. The fact that none of these books are inventions of Poe’s is intriguing. While, as we shall see, he did apply a slight imaginative finesse to his description of Vigiliae’s contents, all of these books are real and their inclusion is the result of Poe’s own researches. Poe is almost as enthusiastic about these books as Usher is. Mabbot points out that ‘Poe was himself as much of a bibliophile [as Usher was, and] as his dreadfully limited purse ever allowed him to be’.95 By writing them into the story, by listing them, researching them and describing their imaginative effects upon his characters, Poe is almost performing an act of collection – assembling these works within his text. There is a strangely vicarious aspect to Poe’s description of Usher’s collection; in dwelling on them so lovingly, Poe seems to reveal something of his own passion. It is not hard to draw a line of descent from the library in the House of Usher to the equally phantasmagorical libraries of Des Esseintes and Dorian Grey (which also seem to reflect their author’s own tastes).

As well as being a curious collection, the books also form a kind of phantasmagoria, an assemblage of strange and exotic oddities. Significantly, the books Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 136–137.

Thomas Mabbott, ‘The Books in the House of Usher’, Books at Iowa, no. 19 (November 1973), 5.

Mabbott, ‘The Books in the House of Usher’, 4.

at once embody Usher’s personality and have power to provoke his fantasies; they reflect the shape of his mind and also have an effect upon it, moulding his thoughts and his dreams. Poe’s selection of titles for Usher’s library was clearly intended to convey the essence of Usher’s personality to the reader. Poe imitates the idea of the collected self familiar from curiosity culture; he presents us with a collection that acts as an externalisation of the collector’s mind, an incarnation of his personality in objects. As with Usher’s tastes in painting and music, the curious collection of books conveys the phantasmagoria that is Usher’s character. More than this though, as well as illustrating Usher’s internal phantasmagoria, these books also produce this phantasmagoria. Towards the end of the passage, the phantasmagoria of the books begins to merge with their owner’s phantasmagorical imaginings of satyrs and œgipans. Usher seems to look through these books into a distant dreamland. The books acquire an almost supernatural dimension; Usher is apparently inspired by contact with them, by reading them and handling them he is elevated into a fantastical intoxication. This is the allure of the phantasmagorical object – their appeal is not just to the sense of beauty or to the intellect, instead they have the seemingly magical property of inducing dream, of quickening the imagination.

Poe’s source for Usher’s ‘chief delight’, the Vigiliae Mortuorum, was, according to Kevin Hayes, a short story by Thomas Raikes which appeared in Bentley’s Miscellany in June 1838.96 The story, called ‘The Bibliophilist’, centres on an elderly book-seller and ex-monk, Don Vincente, who after selling his rare books to his clients tracks them down and murders them in order to recover his prized possessions, thereby alleviating his financial distress without losing parts of his treasured collection. A comparison of how the Vigiliae is described in ‘The Bibliophilist’ and in ‘Usher’ provides an insight into Poe’s phantasmagorical use of the book. Don Vincente describes the book as ‘an exceedingly curious work.’97 Clearly, it was these words, ‘exceedingly curious’ – reproduced exactly in the ‘House of Usher’ – which drew Poe to the Vigiliae. He obviously felt that a book with such a title and described in such terms was ideally suited to reflect Usher’s character. What Poe added, though, was the claim of ‘wild ritual’ in the work. Indeed, according to the editors of Poe’s Tales and Sketches: 1831- 1842 (who based their remarks on an actual Kevin J. Hayes, ‘Another Source for “The Fall of the House of Usher”’, Notes and Queries, Vol. 57 Issue 2, 214-216.

T. Raikes, ‘The Bibliophilist’, Bentley’s Miscellany Vol. 3 (London: Richard Bentley, 1838), 575.

examination of the Vigiliae), ‘Poe… may have supposed the work unorthodox, but incorrectly. [Indeed]… the rites of Mainz in 1500 differed little, and in nothing very important, from those in use in Baltimore in 1839’.98 This embellishment of the work, while apparently trivial, is actually highly revealing because it exemplifies how Poe and his character found something altogether different in the work than Raikes and his character did. The author of ‘The Bibliophilist’ uses the work simply as a rare piece of ephemera and Don Vincente loves it purely as a scholar. ‘Man is mortal’, says Vincente, ‘… But scientific books must be preserved above everything; their value is irreplaceable’.99 The use of the word ‘scientific’ shows us exactly how Don Vincente thinks of the book. By contrast, Usher’s love of his books is founded upon their imaginative potential. Poe apparently grasped that, while Usher’s books needed to be curious and rare, they had, in addition to this, to possess some other property – an air of darkness, fantasy, medieval morbidity and strange philosophy – the title probably suggested these attributes to his imagination.

Usher’s books, while curious, are not only curious, they are constituents of dream. The curious is reformed, altered so that, in this new context, the curious object can seem both real and unreal, solid yet fantastical, an element of a phantasmagoria. This is the most basic manifestation of the phantasmagorical style of writing. By assembling a collection of curious, wondrous, and grotesque objects with the narrative, their very strangeness, their juxtapositions and fantastical effects create the sensation of the phantasmagoria – the hallucinatory feeling of being immersed in dream.

Usher’s taste for the curious and the phantasmagorical nature of his personality dominate ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’. It is significant that the tale begins, as the narrator approaches the house, with the explicit failure of the sublime.

He observes that: ‘[The insufferable gloom] was unrelieved by any of that halfpleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible […] There was an iciness, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime’.100This inability to find anything elevating in the ‘desolate or terrible’ elements of the scene represents the failure or the Edgar Allan Poe, Tales and Sketches: 1831- 1842, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott, Eleanor D. Kewer and Maureen Cobb Mabbott (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 421.

Raikes, ‘The Bibliophilist’, 575.

Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, 127.

insufficiency of conventional aesthetic standards. Neither the ‘desolate’ ruggedness of the picturesque nor the ‘terrible’ sublime is appropriate to the vision we are presented with. In these lines, Poe dismisses the normal Romantic responses to the brooding power of the landscape, the poetic response is impotent when confronted with the house of Usher which, surrounded by its dark miasma, seems like something out of the realm of the unreal. In many ways, the phantasmagorical style of writing, like curiosity before it, represents the disintegration of a unified, ordered system of aesthetics.

Similarly, when the narrator attempts to remodel the ‘particulars of the scene’ into a more pleasing arrangement, he is in effect attempting to follow the conventional aesthetic dictates of his time, attempting to adjust the framing and the elements of the picture he is presented with, so placing them in a more harmonious and balanced alignment with each other. However, all he achieves is an even more hideous prospect. Again, we see that the phantasmagorical resists being managed by conventional authorities or absorbed into conventional narratives. The phantasmagoria emphasises disorder and the phantasmagorical exists outside regular aesthetic dictates;

subverting traditional standards, it rejects not only social authority (as can be seen in Robertson and Philidor’s political satire) but aesthetic authority as well.

The failure of the sublime that opens ‘Usher’ is not merely an indication of the house’s effects upon the narrator, but also an indication, an advance warning to the reader, that conventional systems of aesthetics cannot contain Poe’s phantasmagorical imaginative vision. These references to the picturesque and the sublime stand in obvious contrast to the style of Poe’s own writing and Usher’s curious tastes.

Usher is, however, if anything, one of Poe’s less obviously curious and phantasmagorical characters. The unnamed narrator of ‘Ligeia’ and the eccentric Prince Prospero from ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ are both responsible for more phantasmagorical spectacle than Roderick Usher. The distraught husband who tells the story of ‘Ligeia’ repeats several elements of familiar eighteenth-century curiosity discourse, but altered and presented in a new and darkly phantasmagorical fashion.

The phantasmagoria in ‘Ligeia’ is contained in one room, the bridal chamber of the house into which he takes his second wife. The narrator describes the furnishings of the room in elaborate detail, and it is worth reproducing the whole of this description, in order to convey the sense of the depth and complexity of Poe’s phantasmagorical


Pages:     | 1 |   ...   | 19 | 20 || 22 | 23 |   ...   | 40 |

Similar works:

«2015/ Lee Green Lives Annual Report and Statement of Accounts Welcome to the Lee Green Community Centre! Contents Lee Green Lives: Chair’s report 2015-16. Community Development..6 Co-ordinator’s report /A Fresh Eye..8 About our current programme Volunteer Network..14 Leegate Redevelopment/ The Local Plan Financial Report..16 General Information Lee Green Lives: Chair’s report 2015-16 Last year, I wrote, “Who would have thought when we were created five years ago that we would. have...»

«Focused on the future. 2014 Annual Report 1 Report to Shareholders 4 Management’s Discussion and Analysis 57 Management’s Responsibility for Financial Statements and Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting 59 Independant Auditors’ Reports 63 Consolidated Financial Statements 68 Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements 122 Five Years in Review 123 Shareholders’ Information 124 Corporate Information The Annual General Meeting of Shareholders will be held on January 14, 2015...»

«Abhishek Sarkar Jadavpur University THOMAS DEKKER AND THE SPECTRE OF UNDERWORLD JARGON Abstract My paper seeks to locate Thomas Dekker’s handling of underworld jargon at the interface of oral and literary cultures. The paper briefly looks at a play co-authored by Dekker and then examines two ‘‘coney-catching pamphlets” by him to see how he tries to appropriate cant or criminal lingo (necessarily an oral system) as an aesthetic/commercial programme. In these two tracts (namely, The...»

«Manteca, California December 11, 2012 The Board of Directors of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District met in regular session in their chambers at the hour of 9:00 a.m. President Holbrook called the meeting to order and Director Roos led the flag salute. Upon roll call the following members were noted present: DIRECTORS: HOLBROOK HOLMES KAMPER KUIL ROOS ABSENT: NONE Also present were General Manager Shields, General Counsel Emrick, Engineering Department Manager Sam Bologna, and Betty...»

«Prakash Sachin & Co. Prakash Sachin & Co., a Chartered Accountants firm provides various professional services to its clients. The client list includes Foreign Companies, Multinational Companies, public limited companies, limited companies, Private limited companies, International NPO etc. The firm main practice area is the Foreign Exchange Management Act, International Taxation, Transfer pricing related matter, Structuring of inbound and outbound investments, structuring of offshore funds,...»

«Lesson 2 The Myth of Neutrality: Part Two Based on Lecture 1 of Greg L. Bahnsen’s Basic Training for Defending the Faith “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5) We are continuing our study of Dr. Bahnsen’s first lecture on the myth of...»

«1 Corinthians 7:10-40 Corresponding Reading: Nash, 194-223 Overview The opening statement literally means, It is best for a man not to have sex with a woman. This is not Paul's statement, but is a Corinthian slogan they had used in their letter to express a view of spirituality that demanded sexual abstinence. In the last section, 7:1-9, Paul countered their view in two ways. First, he allowed proper sexual relations within marriage, and instructed those who were abstaining to resume except...»

«THIS DOCUMENT IS IMPORTANT AND REQUIRES YOUR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. If you are in any doubt as to the action you should take, you are recommended to seek your own financial advice from your stockbroker, bank manager, solicitor, accountant or other independent financial adviser duly authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, as amended, (“FSMA”) who specialises in advising on the acquisition of shares and other securities. This document, which has been drawn up in accordance...»

«FLOWGISTICS AND WATER QUALITY Ljudmil A. Golemanov, Kristina Zgodavova ABSTRACT Paper is briefly dealing with theoretically relatively independent, but in practice tightly corresponding themes from the field of Flowgistics and Water Quality Engineering and Management. Base of the paper is case study (Golemanov, 2002). Merit of the paper is presentation and particular solution of problematic incidental with rationalization of financial, energy, labour and material flows. Addition of this paper...»

«TRADING NATURE A report, with case studies, on the contribution of wildlife trade management to sustainable livelihoods and the Millennium Development Goals by Dilys Roe Published by TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK and WWF International, Gland, Switzerland. © 2008 TRAFFIC International and WWF International. All rights reserved. All material appearing in this publication is copyrighted and may be reproduced with perrmission. Any reproduction in full or in part of this publication must...»

«This interview was conducted by Sergius Kishenko, Moscow Russia. This article and photograph are appearing in Super New Reality magazine as the feature article of the June 2008 issue. The Russian version has additional photographs and footnotes. Sverkhnovaya Realnost (“SuperNew Reality”) Magazine – Moscow Russia Interview with EU Nanotechnology Executive The feature article today is an interview with Karl W B Schwarz, the Managing Director, CEO of a United States nanotechnology company...»

«Linda Warley Unbecoming a 'dirty savage Jane Willis's Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood J a n e Willis's autobiography, Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood, deals with the author's experiences growing up in the 1950s as a student resident at the St. Philip's Indian and Eskimo Anglican Residential School in Fort George, Quebec and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.1 It locates a particular life story within a larger—though, until very recently, occluded—narrative of...»

<<  HOME   |    CONTACTS
2017 www.thesis.dislib.info - Online materials, documents

Materials of this site are available for review, all rights belong to their respective owners.
If you do not agree with the fact that your material is placed on this site, please, email us, we will within 1-2 business days delete him.