Taphephobia in Edgar Allan Poe's collection of gothic tales: a new historicist study of 19th century america's most prevalent fear
par Salma LAYOUNI
Université de Sousse - Master 2013
Taphephobia in Edgar Allan Poe's Collection of
A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
Candidate: Salma Layouni Supervisor: Dr. Edward Sklepowich
I would like to express my special gratitude and thanks to my supervisor and mentor Dr Edward Sklepowich for his limitless encouragement and patience. I would like to thank him for his selfless dedication to my academic development. I owe my deepest gratitude to all my MA teachers who guided me throughout two years, providing me with a constant support and care.
Likewise, I would acknowledge my gratitude to my friend and teacher Mr. Mehrez Mzoughi for his endless love and support from secondary school until the present moment. Thank you for believing in me.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest gratefulness to my family. Words cannot express how grateful I am to my mother for all of the sacrifices that she has made in my behalf. Thank you for your prayers and for your support in the hard moments of my life.
This dissertation presents a new historicist study of the motif of taphephobia, or fear of premature burial, in Edgar Allan Poe's collection of gothic tales. The choice of new historicist theory, particularly Stephen Greenblatt and Louis Montrose's concepts, is a strategic choice to go beyond the critics' psychoanalytic analysis of the same motif, using mainly Sigmund Freud's theory of tripartite psyche. This paper offers a study of the different strategies used by the author to reflect the 19th century United States' rife phenomenon. The purpose of this study is to show how Poe's use of taphephobia reflects his society and era, showing an image of an obsessive United States controlled by the fear that reshapes the lifestyle of a whole nation. It also presents a reflection of the collapse of the religious dogma and faith and the rise of the belief in scientific approach. Hence, taphephobia is not studied as a psychological phenomenon but rather as a historical event. This dissertation offers a complete image of taphephobia through the literary analysis of Poe's tales. It clarifies the reasons behind the phenomenon through a parallel study of the characters' agony and the United States' public horror that leads to a number of precautions adapted by the whole society. The conclusion reached is that Poe uses literary representation of taphephobia to show how the obsession becomes the driving force behind the rise of whole industry and how the private events of death and burial become a national affair that necessitates the power of the law.
Keywords: New Historicism, intertextuality, historicity of the text and textuality of the history, anecdote, sublime, safety coffins, taphephobia.
Chapter I: New historicism and Literature 5
Chapter 2: Historicity of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales 20
Chapter 3: Taphephobia in Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic Tales : A Reflection of 19th
Century United States' Worst Nightmares 55
Works Cited 83