Title

Undead Wives and Undone Husbands: Poe's Tales of Marriage

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-2018

Department

English

Abstract

Critics have had very little to say about marriage as an institution in Poe’s work, despite a recent historical turn in Poe studies that might lead in that direction. This essay demonstrates that Poe was in fact deeply engaged with the idea of legal marriage—one of the most important social and political issues of his day—and deeply ambivalent about the losses to which marriage subjected both husbands and wives. In the wasted, undead wives featured in such tales as “Berenice” (1835) and “Ligeia” (1838) and the undone, dispossessed husbands in “The Black Cat” (1843) and “The Oblong Box” (1844), Poe considers the profound transformations that legal marriage works upon women and men, and the terrifying unity between husband and wife that marriage demands.

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe

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