By Michael J. S. Williams

"A global 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 expertise of the displacement of an "authorial writing self"; by way of a "self because it is written"; and on his debunking of the redemptive houses of the romantic image.

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Example text

His drooping wings are both a sign of his memory of their occasion and a sign of authorial anxiety-hence his attempt to reestablish the integrity of his connection with his creation. His assertion, however, must remain an assertion, since each new interpreter will, like Oinos, have to read his text figuratively in terms of "like" rather than "are! " A further qualification of Agathos's origination is offered by his earlier account of "the modes or . . the methods of what, during mortality, we were accustomed to call Creation" (TS 1213).

Charmion's request prompting this account-"Let us converse of familiar things, in the old familiar language of the world which has so more than just an awkward device to fearfully perished" (TS 456)-is justify the angels talking in English. On the one hand, in a strategy reminiscent of the "mere household events" of "The Black Cat" (TS 849), the distance between "familiar things" and the subsequent narration is staggering; yet the near-parallelism between "familiar things ... familiar language ...

Just as the "memoirs" generate his action, so do words apparently independently proliferate in his mind and lead to his deadly confession. Just as, he says, the "burthen" of a song or "snatches from an opera" return unprompted and repeatedly to our memory, so "I would perpetually catch myself pondering upon my security, and repeating, in a low under-tone, the phrase, 'I am safe' " (TS 1225). His former reflection on his "absolute security" and the illusory stability of selfhood that it implies become a difference from himself in language-he would "catch [him] self"; and one day, he notes in a prophetic phrase, "I arrested myself in the act of murmuring, half-aloud, these customary syllables" (TS 1225; emphasis mine).

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A World of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction by Michael J. S. Williams
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