The Fall of the House of Usher

Domains in 'The Fall of the House of Usher'

In his comprehensive introduction to Gothic Tales Baldick outlines the vital role that Edgar Alan Poe, and in particular his first Gothic tale 'The Fall of the House of Usher', played in redefining the genre: 'Poe ensured that whereas before him the keynote of Gothic fiction had been cruelty, after him it could be decadence'. Although Poe altered some conventions of the Gothic, he still maintained in his tales the important function that this genre had in literature: to subvert the dominant ideologies of a contemporary society, a function which it still performs today. The principle technique the Gothic employs to subvert the dominant is to displace the narrative to a past setting. This makes it less threatening to the dominant since it appears to be a description of ideologies that no longer exist. In 'The Fall of the House of Usher', the house of the title performs the task of displacing the reader to a past time because of its heritage, despite the fact that the narrative actually appears to take place at the time that the text was written. It is through the house, what it represents, and the domains of possible worlds constructed within its narrative that Poe has managed to formulate a critique not...

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