Poe's Short Stories

Death and Creation in Poe's "Ligeia"

In his essay entitled "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe writes, "the death...of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover." Here, Poe suggests that out of the death of something beautiful comes poetic inspiration. In a Poe story or poem, the death of a beautiful woman creates a "deficit" of beauty. In turn, Poe fills the void with his "beauty," manifested in the narrator's own words. Since the dead can no longer speak to affirm or dispute the truth, the bereaved lover is in a position of considerable power; he can relate the story of his lover's death in any manner he chooses. In "Ligeia," Poe explores the relationship between death and creation through the power of the narrator. Out of the death of Ligeia comes the birth of a new story, of which the narrator is master. Poe uses the analogy of Ligeia's revival to represent the idea of narrative creation coming out of death.

In the beginning of the story, Poe's narrator increases his agency as the storyteller by erasing that of Ligeia. He accomplishes this by describing her as...

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