Deconstruction and Successful Inarticulation: Scandal, Logocentrism, Mystery, and Profundity In the Works of Edgar Allan Poe
Mentor:James Thomas, Professor of English, Pepperdine University
Poe's work continues to be accused of inconsistency, contradiction, and obscurantism; these characteristics of his work have made it difficult to form a consistent critical opinion about him (Winters, Garrison). But what many critical theories take for granted, structuralism chief among them, is the ability to form a consistent critical opinion about Poe from a theory characterized by logocentrism: identified by Derrida as an implicit bias in western thought—descendent from Aristotelian philosophy—that favors speech, law, and reason above other avenues of critical thinking. Deconstructivism identifies and legitimates the freeplay in Poe’s fiction: the legitimate effect, as Ronald Bieganowski identifies, of Poe’s signifier to signify “most successfully when it fails, when it points away from itself to something its form cannot capture” (175). Despite Poe’s belief that “any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language,” his work demonstrates the kind of mystical knowledge that “does not permit itself” to be analyzed, articulated, or captured (Poe 596, 227). In doing so it successfully captures the maddened self-tortured state of an analytical man attempting to investigate the unknowable. The desire to know is ferocious, the limits to human knowledge are evident, and the result is a contradiction between desire and reality that drives Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction and philosophy.