Matthew A. Taylor, ““Edgar Allan Poe's (Meta)physics: A Pre-History of the Post-Human”” (pp. 193––221)
Edgar Allan Poe partakes of a social imaginary pursuing a single, unified theory of the physical and metaphysical. In this essay I examine how Poe, rather than following the predominantly utopian, utilitarian, and self-affirming teleologies of many such contemporary discourses (mesmerism, spiritualism, etc.), pictures instead the unsettling implications for human ontology consequent upon the idea that persons are less autonomous or sovereign entities than mutable effects of external, inhuman forces. Routing my discussion through a critical reading of Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, I argue that Poe's cosmological poem-essay Eureka and much of his short fiction——including ““Ligeia”” and ““The Fall of the House of Usher””——present a model of the universe and of the natural world that actively erodes the distinctions separating humanity from its physical environment, indeed that finally refuses the differentiation of subject and object altogether. My essay provides a brief genealogy for this macabre literalization of contemporary theories of the universe in Poe's writing and explores the implications that it has for a critical tradition (psychoanalytic, deconstructive, ideological) largely invested in the selves rather than the surroundings of Poe's tales.
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