American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, by Paul Hurh

By Paul Hurh

If the US is a state based upon Enlightenment beliefs, then why are such a lot of of its such a lot celebrated items of literature so darkish? American Terror returns to the query of yankee literature's special tone of terror via a detailed research of 3 authors—Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Allan Poe, and Herman Melville—who not just wrote works of terror, yet who defended, theorized, and championed it. Combining up-to-date ancient views with shut analyzing, Paul Hurh indicates how those authors constructed terror as a different literary have an effect on proficient incidentally the concept that of pondering turns into, within the wake of Enlightenment empiricism, more and more outlined via a collection of austere mechanic approaches, corresponding to the medical process and the algebraic capabilities of analytical common sense. instead of searching for a sense that will go beyond considering through subtending cause to emotion, those writers present in terror the sensation of pondering, the atypical feeling of reason's authority over emotional schemes. In so doing, they grappled with a shared set of putting up with questions: what's the distinction among considering and feeling? after we recognize whatever, how will we be aware of that we all know it? Why does it appear most unlikely to cause oneself out of an irrational worry? And what turns into of the liberty of the need after we realize that has effects on can push it around?

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Extra resources for American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville

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As tone, then, terror belongs not just to a certain figure in the text (as in objective accounts of gothic horror’s taxonomy of conventions), but neither is it found only in the reader’s experience (as in the case of the sublime, in which the subject regains superiority over the world of the objects of sense). Instead, terror disrupts categorization by being an aesthetic orientation, an effect, of the very categories of subject and object. That which experiences “tone,” in Ngai’s sense, cannot be either just subject or object itself—our affective capacities come to open a new mode of apprehension, one in which the experience of aesthetic effect dislodges the subject/object binary.

Whereas this book begins with the terrors of objectivity, of the bitter yet irresistible fruit of reason’s authority, it ends with a portrait of the terror of subjectivity, perfectly idealized in the figure of the inhuman automaton. The depth of the textual and historical analysis of these authors’ changing engagement with matters of mind and terror enriches an often-felt, but not yet narrated, thread of influence between American literature and the development of poststructuralism. If, to combine at once the claims of Matthiessen and Cavell, the thesis of American literature is its commitment to democracy and the prelude to pragmatism, the antithesis of American literature, as I argue here, is its commitment to the aesthetics of paradox and the prelude to poststructuralÂ�ism.

A pragmatic idealist, such as Emerson, would see Melville’s alternative—the framing of philosophy’s mission as radical agon—as a commitment to despair, as a deliberate madness, or at best, as a pathological residue of fossilized religious doctrine. 27 INTRODUCTION 23 But even Ishmael and Starbuck can feel the tug of Ahab’s madness. And Cavell’s essays on Poe’s skepticism as well as Grimstad’s recognition of pragmatic practices in Poe and Melville make apparent the proximity of the skeptical tradition to the pragmatist one.

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