I will read John Winthrop‘s Model of Christian Charity against and through Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem ‘The City in the Sea’. Winthrop and Poe both localize a ‘city’ to represent an extreme form of society. The koine Greek of Matthew 5 uses the word polis to describe a ‘city on a hill’. Christ says this city must not be hidden, but rather should shine so that the world may see it. The New Testament‘s merging of ‘politics’ and ‘city’ in the word polis makes it unsurprising that many Anglophone writers invoke ‘city’ in a title or phrase when making political innuendoes. Winthrop was a devotee of scripture, and Poe knew Greek, so their allusions to a representative human city are fraught with cultural meaning. To contextualize and compare their particular evocations of the city metaphor, I incorporate the theories of Edward Said and present cross-references to Eugène Delacroix, the prophecies of Ezekiel, and Shelley‘s poem ‘Ozymandias’. The Holy Land is at once fixed in the exotic Middle East yet necessary for America‘s quotidian social mores. Winthrop and Poe romanticize, appropriate, and exploit Middle Eastern symbolism. The interesting twist, however, is that Poe Orientalizes Winthrop‘s city on a hill, and in so doing, he Orientalizes Winthrop, and perhaps America‘s own religious fanaticism.
Antiquarian efforts to revive Old Norse poetry brought about an interest in Germanic superstition that could be exploited by literary writers. This article examines a subspecies of terror writing which took inspiration from Norse literature. Compared to the Catholic settings of many Gothic novels, Norse-inflected writing provided an alternative. It is a little known fact that the Old Norse religion and literature was used as a prism through which Britains ethnically Gothic past could be viewed and negotiated. The article discusses some examples of how the fashion for thrills was combined with a national project to recover a sense of ancestral heroism.
This article argues that Charles Maturins Melmoth the Wanderer embodies an ethical attitude towards its representations of Gothic violence and horror in the way that it self-reflexively stages its horrific scenes. By confronting its readers with a shifting distance from such violent scenes, the novel exposes readers to their own desire for and victimization by Gothic horror. While previous critics have tended to see Maturins novel as either glorying amorally in its excessive Gothic representations, or as recuperating its scenes of horror with a moral message, this article sees its ambiguous and undecidable attitude towards these scenes as embodying its ethical standpoint, a standpoint that challenges the illusion of literary coherence and that exposes its readers’ implication in the horror that lies traumatically within, and not safely outside, language.