Andrew Smith
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From writing to reading
Poe, Brontë and Eliot
in Gothic death 1740–1914
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Mesmerism is explored in Poe’s ‘Mesmeric Revelation’ (1844), ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and ‘A Tale of the Ragged Mountains’ (1844). The near-dead subject becomes an object for quasi-scientific investigation in Poe, which can be related to his theory of the cosmos outlined in Eureka (1848), where God is described as an author who has plotted the structure of the universe and Poe claims that literary plots represent an inadequate neo-platonic echo of this creative power. Poe also suggests that at the end, at the moment of death, meaning will be produced and this is a theme developed in the tales about mesmerism, and in others which centre on death and resurrection such as ‘Morella’ (1835) and ‘Ligeia’ (1838). The idea that meaning will appear at the end is also a theme in Poe’s detective tales and the account of Poe will emphasise how the problems of decoding are linked to interpretations of death and dying. An emphasis on readers can also be witnessed in Wuthering Heights and ‘The Lifted Veil’, which also centre on issues of interpretation which are bound up with models of writing and reading.

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Gothic death 1740–1914

A literary history


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