Social and Psychological Disorder in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe


This title offers an in-depth examination of colonialism as presented in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, as well as contemporary perspectives on this issue. Discussions include the use of language to convey status and power, the clash of Igbo and European cultures, the loss of personal identity, and the different faces of neo-colonialism.

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This title offers an in-depth examination of colonialism as presented in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, as well as contemporary perspectives on this issue. Discussions include the use of language to convey status and power, the clash of Igbo and European cultures, the loss of personal identity, and the different faces of neo-colonialism.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Jane Harper
Social issues are at the heart of most great books. Student readers and researchers who take the time to understand those issues in the context of the work are often rewarded with a deeper appreciation of literature. The titles in this Social Issues in Literature series address the need for an accessible, easy-to-use resource that helps students understand works of classic fiction by examining them through the lens of a particular social issue. Each volume explores a single literary work or a body of work. Social and Psychological Disorder in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe, like all of the books in this series, is organized in three sections, beginning with background information about the author and providing insight into how the author's experiences influenced his or her work. Another section presents articles that analyze the relationship between the work and the social issue, all from a variety of perspectives. A final chapter brings the highlighted social issue into contemporary times, discussing its status in society today. The articles, all signed, and all from individual contributors, are brief and clearly written, with students in mind. In the case of this particular title, they delve into the aspects of madness, murder, and obsession that make Poe's tales so fascinating to students. The Environment in Henry David Thoreau's Walden, too, highlights issues of concern and shows how the issues that compelled Thoreau to retreat to Walden Pond are just as important to students today. Both titles feature questions for further discussion and a bibliography of books, periodicals, and Web sites that provide more information about the given social issue. These titles will be a useful addition to the collection in libraries that serve students who are looking at literature in the context of social issues and who seek information about specific literary works explored in this series. Reviewer: Jane Harper
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780737750171
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 7/23/2010
  • Series: Social Issues in Literature Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 15 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Chronology 13

Chapter 1 Edgar Allan Poe's Background

1 The Life of Edgar Allan Poe Eric W. Carlson 17

Poe's personal instability, rooted in his family life, contrasted with his discipline as a writer.

2 The Sources of Poe's Youthful Despair Jeffrey Meyers 25

The poverty, death, and neglect that Poe experienced in his childhood wounded him psychologically, leading to his self-destructiveness and irresponsibility in the early 1830s.

3 Poe's Derangement in the Late 1840s Scott Peeples 33

After his wife, Virginia's death, Poe's derangement led to hallucinations and paranoia, which drove away everyone who had once supported him.

Chapter 2 Social and Psychological Disorder in Poe's Works

1 Poe's Characters as Self-Portraits Claudia C. Morrison 44

Ligeia may represent the women in Poe's life (his mother, for instance) who had died but are presented here as determined to return to him, bringing dread and horror.

2 Madness as Realism, Not Supernaturalism Vincent Buranelli 54

Most of Poe's murderers should be in mental institutions instead of prisons.

3 Edgar Allan Poe's and the Insanity Plea John Cleman 62

As Poe was writing "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and "The Imp of the Perverse," two court cases raised the issue of the treatment of the insane and the responsibility they bear for their crimes.

4 Abnormality and the Confusion of Life and Death Charles E. May 70

Obsession in "The Black Cat, "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Tell-Tale Heart," which lead to gruesome murders, arises from a failure to separate life from death. The live burials in these tales support this idea.

5 Madness in Poe's Tales as a Means of Escape Daniel Hoffman 77

Poe's disturbed protagonists develop split personalities and hypersensitivity as a means of escaping reality. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the protagonist seeks to neutralize patriarchal disapproval.

6 Confessing Shrewdness to Deny Madness in Poe's Stories Christopher Benfey 84

The narrators of Poe's tales attempt to "prove" that they are perfectly sane by explaining the care and attention to detail that they used to carry out their atrocities.

7 The Mad Chamber of the Mind in Poe's Poetry Benjamin F. Fisher 91

Poe's poems are psychological journeys into the mind. The chamber in "The Raven" is the protagonist's mind.

8 Death, Sex, and Horror in Poe's Poetry Edward H. Davidson 98

The Protagonists of Poe's poetry typically arise from death, horror, and madness to know a greater truth.

9 Insanity as the Way to Salvation in "The Pit and the Pendulum" James Lundquist 105

As sense after sense is taken away, the character in "The Pit and the Pendulum" loses his will and sanity. Only then does the hand reach out to save him.

10 Poe's Fixation on the Death of Beautiful Women Karen Weekes 110

Poe's acknowledged belief that the most poetic subject on earth was the death of a beautiful woman is carried through in the tales with the murderous obsession of his characters.

11 "Ligeia" as a Tale of Obsession and Hallucination Roy P. Basler 119

The narrator hallucinates the return of Ligeia into the body of his murdered wife, Rowena, to give himself, he believes, power over death.

Chapter 3 Contemporary Instances of Death and Abnormal Psychology

1 The Obsession of the Stalker Kathleen Megan 126

The Slaying of Johanna Justin-Jinich brought into the open the fear that many women have of deranged stalkers.

2 Patricide Without Remorse Manuel Roig-Franzia 130

Recalling several of Poe's stories, a court case brings up a son's motiveless murder of his father thirty years previously.

3 Journey of a Schizophrenic Elyn R. Saks 139

A schizophrenic, now a university law professor, details the symptoms of her disorder at a time in law school when she decided to stop taking her medications.

4 The Insanity Defense Lara Bricker 146

The insanity defense has been employed in trials such as that of Sheila LaBarre, who believed she was an angel sent by God to kill her two lovers. Juries, however, rarely find killers not guilty by reason of insanity.

For Further Discussion 152

For Further Reading 153

Bibliography 154

Index 158

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