Beginning with the influential readings by Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, poststructuralist fascination with Edgar Allan Poe's detective tales has treated them as fables of analytical method and exposed them as posing an insoluble challenge to totalizing frameworks of interpretive analysis. These studies overlook an excised paragraph from Poe's first detective tale in which Poe displays the debt his model of analysis owes to historical sources. This essay discovers the origins of Poe's model of analysis by recovering its discursive context and argues that the poststructuralist conclusions are anticipated in part by Poe's deliberate attempts to translate that model into narrative. This model, inherited from scientific debates in Renaissance history, defines analysis as comprised of two reciprocal processes—the process of resolution and the process of composition. The first part of this essay addresses the original first paragraph of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) and the definition of analysis that its restoration enables. The discoveries there lead to a reading of “The Man of the Crowd” (1841) as a failed first attempt to translate the dynamic processes of resolution and composition into a narrative system. By recovering a first paragraph that the poststructuralist criticism misses, this study finds “The Man of the Crowd” central to Poe's strategies of narrative deferral and yields an important pre-history of the deconstructive critical aporia that is their legacy.
- Edgar Allan Poe
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
- “The Man of the Crowd”
- Poststructuralist Criticism
- Detective Fiction
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