Perverse Feelings: Poe and American Masculinity examines white masculinity in Poe's fiction and the culture it represents. Poe's men are tormented by chronic illness, deviant attachments, and ugly emotions. As it analyzes these afflictions, this book illuminates the pathologies of American masculinity that emerged in a terrible history of imperialism, capitalism, racism, misogyny, and homophobia. One of its central contentions is that we can better understand a past and present American masculinity through a reckoning with its "perverse feelings." More pointedly, this book asks: What does masculinity feel? What does white American masculinity feel in the first decades of nation formation? What does it feel in the crucible of its revolution, its slave system, its democracy, its nascent capitalism, and its pursuit of happiness? What feelings besiege and beleaguer Poe's men? And what can they teach us about the antagonisms of contemporary white American masculinity?
Suzanne Ashworth is professor in the Department of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Otterbein University.
Introduction: Perverse Feelings
Chapter 1: Hate
Chapter 2: Melancholia
Chapter 3: Disgust
Chapter 4: Resentment
Chapter 5: Revenge
Ashworth notes that "Poe populates his fiction with kindred men: white men angry, aggrieved, and vindictive" (p. 5). In this book she is concerned with understanding that not with blaming Poe. Thus, in Poe's troubled relationship with his foster father, John Allan, she finds an "intransigent" conflict with Poe as "the repentant son; Allan the unforgiving father" (p. 141). Each of the five chapters is centered on a specific text and "a perverse emotion that propels the narrative: hate, melancholia, disgust, revenge, and resentment" (p. 5)… Ashworth's conclusion addresses contemporary "perverse feelings," offering the tentative hope that "in ambivalence, we can feel discouraged and hopeful, compassionate and hostile, anxious and detached" (p. 199). Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
Perverse Feelings: Poe and American Masculinity is highly original. It takes what we think we know about Poe’s work and life and pushes it into a new light, generating convincing and fascinating interpretations of white masculinity through careful readings of his tales. Suzanne Ashworth moves with stunning rigor through details drawn from a range of sources: biography, medical history, affect theory, literary theory, gender theory, antebellum politics, and literary analysis. This book makes a significant contribution to Poe scholarship as well as a valuable contribution to the history of emotions and race in the antebellum United States.