By Michael J. S. Williams
"A international of phrases" bargains a brand new examine the measure to which language itself is a subject of Poe's texts. Stressing the methods his fiction displays at the nature of its personal signifying practices, Williams sheds new mild on such concerns as Poe's characterization of the connection among writer and reader as a fight for authority, on his know-how of the displacement of an "authorial writing self"; by way of a "self because it is written"; and on his debunking of the redemptive homes of the romantic image.
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Additional info for A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe
The very existence of what, in the 1848 "Marginalia" entry, he calls the "shadows of shadows in question" is radically in question. In an 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell, Poe suggests that the terms used to evoke the supernal are "mere word[s]": "I have no belief in spirituality. I think the word a mere word"; and, he adds, in terms reminiscent of his definition of imagination, "No one has really a conception of spirit. We cannot imagine what is not" (L 257). F In Eureka (1848), Poe comments on "that merest of words, 'Infinity''': "This, like 'God,' 'spirit,' and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in nearly all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea-but of an effort at one.
Indeed, the eye seems to have an independent existence in which, rather than be winked by her, it now has the power to make her wink: There it lay in the gutter just under my nose, and the airs it gave itself would have been ridiculous had they not been disgusting. Such a winking and blinking were never before seen. This behavior on the part of my eye in the gutter was not only irritating on account of its manifest insolence and shameful ingratitude, but was also exceedingly inconvenient on account of the sympathy which always exists between two eyes of the same head, however far apart.
F In Eureka (1848), Poe comments on "that merest of words, 'Infinity''': "This, like 'God,' 'spirit,' and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in nearly all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea-but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception" (EAP 1272). " Moreover, he subsequently offers an analogy that, in effect, textualizes the universe: "In the construction of plot, for example, in fictitious literature, we should aim at so arranging the incidents that we shall not be able to determine, of anyone of them, whether it depends from anyone other or upholds it.