The Female Figure of Poe’s Poetry: A Rehabilitation

Eve Celia Morisi

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          This essay re-examines the often neglected issue of women’s representation in Edgar Allan Poe’s poetic compositions. Following in the footsteps of Eliza Richards’s Gender and the Poetics of Reception in Poe’s Circle, which provides an insightful reconsideration of women’s significant presence and role in Poe’s poetic production and its reception, I attempt to demonstrate the key role women played, as poetic images, in the elaboration of his verse.
          First, I evaluate the legitimacy of Poe’s reputation as a ‘lady killer’ through an analysis of the processes that contribute to the stock characterization, fragmentation, petrification, and framing of women in his verse. Second, I consider the ways in which the poet does not limit himself to these seemingly hollow female portrayals, but instead turns his heroines into compound aesthetic structures through a meticulous art of restoration. Following this study of the Poesque woman’s aesthetic complexity, which casts doubt on the critical idea of her complete underdevelopment, I investigate the metaphorical substance the poet assigns to her. I conclude that if female figures remain utilitarian to Poe’s verse they nonetheless incarnate pivotal poetic entities, be these aesthetic, temporal, spatial, or symbolic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-28
JournalPoe Studies/Dark Romanticism
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Poe
  • Women


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