Confinement, Women, Poe, & "Cask"I find it interesting that Poe's tale of revenge, confinement and death was first published in "Godey's Lady's Book" (1846), a magazine whose...

Confinement, Women, Poe, & "Cask"

I find it interesting that Poe's tale of revenge, confinement and death was first published in "Godey's Lady's Book" (1846), a magazine whose readership was obviously mostly women.  

Might there be some sort of psychological connection here?  The Victorian Age certainly saw a lot of women confined to the homes, and a lot assurredly had fantasies of revenge.  Could something like that be at play here?  (Catacombs and caves, of course, prominent symbols of the unconcious and the feminine.) 

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Wow, I did not know that!  I think there is a definite connection.  Women often feel confined by society.  I think that revenge is a concept women then might secretly have dwelled on.  Let's face it, women loved the gothic.  They still do!

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What an interesting discussion.  Perhaps I'm too much of a realist (pragmatist?), but it seems to me Poe would have published where it was prudent to do so; if women were reading this kind of Gothic horror writing, then what better place to publish than a women's magazine.  It seems a bit too ironic, even for Poe, that he would write a story which, subliminally at least, punishes women and then profit from their fascination for reading such work.  I'm with accessteacher, I think, and see Montressor as a character making his way through a psychological labyrinth which parallels his descent into the catacombs. I'll be anxious to see what you find as you do some further research and study, though.  Yummy meatloaf!

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Well, that is one way of approaching Literature, jamie-wheeler! I do think #2 makes a number of valid points regarding the attraction of gothic literature amongst the fairer gender. Remember Mary Radcliffe, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen all explicitly wrote gothic novels. I have thought for a long time that the voyage into the catacombs is actually a symbolic psychological voyage into the madness of Montresor himself - it is entirely fitting that he bricks in Fortunato at the end of the catacombs, having reached the centre core of insanity that defines him as a person. I don't know if we can place a feminist slant on this though...

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

He certainly enjoyed exploring the female psyche.  This might indeed be a good paper, though I haven't explored at all whether the topic has been done yet or not. 

At first I hestitated to post this, afraid it was too out there.  But the more I think about it, esp after your response, the more it seems to have merit.  (Though telling other writers you have a potential idea is like leaving a meatloaf out for a basset hound! :)

Or, it could be like one of my favorite Dave Barry quotes:  "If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.  For example, in YOUR paper, you say the whale in Moby Dick is really the Republic of Ireland.  Your teacher, who is sick to death of reading papers will think you're enormously creative and give you an A."

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Much (I hesitate to say most) gothic literature was consumed by women readers, whether Poe's short stories or the longer tomes written by people such as Wilkie Collins and published serially in similar magazines.  Some gothic literature fell over the line into "sensationalist" literature such as Mary Braddon's work (eg Lady Audley's Secret), but other remained "high culture," such as that written by Poe. I think you hit it right with revenge fantasies--and all sorts of fantasies. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Fiction by Janice Radway discusses the link in more contemporary literature.  The Victorian Literature web site has various links that discuss the relationship between Victorian women as producers and consumers of gothic literature and sensationalist literature (the edgier stuff) as well.  But the connection you make in your post to enclosed spaces in particular and the psychology (or physiology) of women suggests an interesting seminar paper.  A retreat into the feminine unconscious?  Or maybe that is where Poe wanted to go?  Remember he's the guy who said a dead, beautiful woman is the most poetic subject for writing (or something like that).

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