Queer Theory: Edgar Allan Poe – The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)

First published in September, 1839, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is among the most critically scrutinized works in Edgar Allan Poe’s bibliography. The short story, ripe with metaphorical descriptions and intentionally mysterious language, is an open invitation to varied interpretations. At the high school level, most students are taught that it is a tale about extreme isolation. In academia, scholars are typically more interested in the bizarre brother-sister relationship and its incestuous possibilities.

Until recently, the idea that Poe could be in conversation with queer anxieties might have sounded absurd. Increasingly, however, critics have identified queer themes throughout his stories and poetry. In some cases, such as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” it is nearly impossible to deny that Dupin and his male companion are in a romantic relationship (Novosat). So too does “The Fall of the House of Usher” benefit from a queer reading. Suddenly the curious language and enigmatic events make sense. Not vaguely or subconsciously or inadvertently, but in its entirety. It is my argument that “Usher” is, from beginning to end, about queer anxieties. Notably, the angst of sexual repression and an inability to reproduce.

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Franz Kafka – The Metamorphosis (1915)

Review by Justin Tate

Since its publication in 1915, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis has become one of the most dissected literary works of all time. Multitudes have pored over every detail of the author’s life for clues to reveal its proper meaning, extending their search even to the journal entries of his close companions (Cain). A hypothesis that Kafka suffered a Father Complex remains the running theory for how such bizarre fiction manifested itself into existence (Abraham). This interpretation is far from conclusive, however, with dozens of other compelling arguments. Feminist readings and postcolonial readings offer their own rich interpretations, and practically everything in between.

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