The Raven (McTeigue 2012)
Instructions: Carefully read all of the following. Then, select one (either Option A, Option B, or Option C) to write about in your post. Be sure to make a concrete, specific, textually grounded, and debatable assertion about how we ought to interpret the textual-filmic aspect you discuss. Be careful not to completely isolate this aspect from its narrative, conceptual, and historical context – your close reading must make sense in the context of the narrative as a whole. Also, do not simply describe or summarize; rather, analyze and interpret. Do not just say that this aspect functions in the way you say it does; rather, show us how it does so using precise language, concrete textual support, and reasoned argumentation. Title your post “Option A,” “Option B,” or “Option C.” The minimum length requirement for this post is 375 words. It is worth 50 points.
In The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the first of three of Poe’s tales to feature the figure of C. Auguste Dupin (one of the inspirations for Arthur Conan Doyle’s more famous Sherlock Holmes), the narrator sets up a number of conceptual distinctions concerning ways of thinking – between “analytical” “method,” apparently “preternatural” “intuition,” and mere “calculation”; between the “complex” and the “profound”; “mere attention” and “superior acumen”; “mere rule,” on the one hand, and “observations and inferences” on the other; “analytical power” or “the analytic ability,” as distinguished from “simple ingenuity”; “method” versus “measures”; “the unusual” and “the abstruse”; “reality” and “appearance”; “law” versus “reason”; “head” and “body”; and so on. Using one such distinction as an interpretive framework or lens through which to view the film and one of Poe’s texts, discuss how these conflicting modes manifest themselves in a specific aspect of the film and of one of Poe’s short stories (besides The Murders in the Rue Morgue). Be very deliberate in how you go about doing this: First, make the specific, textually grounded, and debatable assertion you wish to argue; next, clearly andspecifically define the terms from Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue that you wish to deploy; then, discuss how these conceptual categories function in a specific aspect of the film and of another Poe story. You may also wish to consider this topic in the context of the distinction between “Romanticism” and “Enlightenment rationalism” as it is summarized in the “Romanticism and Transcendentalism” handout (in the “Course Background” folder under “Readings” on Blackboard).
The Raven (2012) goes some distance in staging a confluence between reality and fiction. Poe (John Cusack) in a significant sense becomes a character in one of his own stories; he then again becomes an author of those very same stories by writing about the serial killer’s crimes, which themselves imitate stories Poe has already written. Worldand text, reality and representation, the actual and the imagined, become intertwined in interesting, complex, and problematic ways. The distinction between an author – the god-like author(ity) figure who controls the course of his narratives and determines the fates of his characters – and a character – he who is subjected to the authority of the author and has his destiny determined for him – disintegrates: power in a sense changes hands, and the author(ity) (Poe) becomes an object of power (or character) in the hands of another “author” (the killer), a force that now, in large part, determines Poe’s fate. Closely analyze a textual and filmic moment wherein this kind of inter-textual mingling produces a critically noteworthy effect. How does a particular aspect of the film’s blurring of lines between reality and fiction, and/or its disintegration of the authority of the author over his own imaginative productions, allow us to (re)interpret one of Poe’s texts in a way we might not otherwise be able to do? In addressing this question, you may want to consider whether one of Poe’s texts might already be a parable or allegory about writing itself.
Choose one of the following excerpts from a Poe poem to use as an interpretive framework or lens through which to view, analyze, and interpret a specific aspect (scene, character, image, shot, narrative element, or etc.) of the film The Raven. Be systematic and deliberate in clearly stating your thesis, then defining the interpretive framework you wish to appropriate from Poe’s poem, and then deploying that framework to analyze an aspect of the film.
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
The Norton Anthology
»r Poetr y
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THE RAVEN / 977
Not the gaily-jewele d dead
35 Tempt the water s fro m their bed;
For n o ripple s curl, alas!
Along tha t wildernes s o f glass —
N o swellings tel l tha t wind s ma y b e
Upo n some far-of f happie r sea —
40 No heaving s hin t tha t wind s hav e been
O n sea s les s hideously serene.
But lo, a sti r i s i n the air !
The wave—ther e i s a movemen t there !
A s i f the tower s ha d thrus t aside ,
45 In slightly sinking , the dul l tide—
A s i f their top s ha d feebl y given
A voi d withi n the filmy Heaven .
The wave s hav e no w a redde r glow —
The hour s are breathing faint an d low—
50 And when , amid n o earthl y moans,
Down, down tha t town shall settle hence,
Hell , risin g fro m a thousan d thrones ,
Shal l d o i t reverence .
Onc e upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered , weak an d weary,
Ove r many a quain t an d curious volume o f forgotte n lore—
While I nodded , nearl y napping, suddenl y there came a tapping ,
A s o f some on e gentl y rapping , rapping a t my chambe r door .
5 ” ‘Ti s some visiter, ” I muttered , “tappin g a t my chambe r door —
Only thi s an d nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remembe r i t wa s i n the bleak December;
And eac h separat e dying embe r wrough t its ghos t upon the floor .
Eagerl y I wishe d the morrow;—vainl y I ha d sought t o borro w
10 From my book s surceas e o f sorrow—sorro w for the los t Lenore —
For the rar e an d radiant maiden whom the angel s name Lenore —
Nameles s here for evermore .
And the silken, sad , uncertain rustling o f eac h purpl e curtain
Thrilled me—fille d me wit h fantasti c terrors neve r fel t before;
15 So tha t now, t o stil l the beating o f my heart , I stood repeating
” ‘Ti s some visite r entreatin g entranc e a t my chambe r door —
Som e lat e visite r entreatin g entranc e a t my chambe r door; —
This i t i s an d nothing more.”
1. Many slightl y differen t texts o f thi s poe m exist; reprinte d her e i s the versio n publishe d i n The Raven
and Other Poems.
978 / EDGAR ALLAN POE
Presentl y my sou l gre w stronger; hesitating the n n o longer,
20 “Sir,” sai d I , “or Madam , truly you r forgivenes s I implore ;
But the fac t i s I wa s napping, an d s o gentl y yo u came rapping ,
And s o faintl y yo u came tapping , tapping a t my chambe r door ,
Tha t I scarc e wa s sur e I hear d you”—here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there an d nothing more .
25 Deep int o tha t darknes s peering , lon g I stood there wondering, fearing ,
Doubting, dreaming dreams n o mortal eve r dared t o dream before;
But the silence wa s unbroken , an d the stillnes s gav e n o token ,
And the onl y word there spoken wa s the whispere d word , “Lenore? ”
This I whispered , an d a n ech o murmure d bac k the word , “Lenore!”
30 Merely thi s an d nothin g more .
Back int o the chambe r turning , all my sou l withi n me burning,
Soo n again I heard a tapping somewha t loude r tha n before.
“Surely, ” sai d I , “surel y tha t i s somethin g a t my window lattice;
Let me see , then , what thereat is, an d thi s mystery explore —
35 Let my heart b e stil l a momen t an d thi s mystery explore;—
‘Tis the wind an d nothing more!”
Ope n her e I flung the shutter , when , wit h many a flir t an d flutter,
I n there stepped a statel y Rave n o f the saintl y day s o f yore;
Not the least obeisance made he ; no t a minute stopped o r staye d he ;
40 But, wit h mien o f lor d o r lady, perche d abov e my chambe r door —
Perched upon a bus t o f Pallas
jus t abov e my chambe r door —
Perched , an d sat , an d nothing more .
The n thi s ebon y bir d beguiling my sad fancy int o smiling ,
By the grave an d stern decoru m o f the countenanc e i t wore ,
45 “Though thy crest b e shorn an d shaven , thou, ” I said, “ar t sur e n o
Ghastl y gri m an d ancien t Rave n wanderin g fro m the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordl y name i s o n the Night’s Plutonian
Quoth the Rave n “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled thi s ungainl y fowl t o hea r discourse s o plainly ,
50 Though its answer littl e meaning—littl e relevancy bore ;
For we cannot hel p agreein g tha t n o living huma n being
Eve r ye t wa s blessed wit h seein g bir d abov e his chambe r door —
Bird o r beas t upon the sculpture d bust abov e his chambe r door ,
With suc h name a s “Nevermore.”
55 But the Raven, sittin g lonel y o n the placi d bust, spok e onl y
Tha t on e word , a s i f his sou l i n tha t on e word h e did outpour.
Nothing farther the n h e uttered—no t a feather the n h e fluttered—
Till I scarcel y more tha n muttered “Other friends have flown before—
O n the morrow he wil l leave me , a s my Hope s hav e flown before. ”
60 Then the bir d sai d “Nevermore.”
2 . Athena , Gree k goddess o f wisdo m and the arts .
3 . Black ; Pluto wa s the Gree k god o f the underworld.
THE RAVEN / 979
Startle d a t the stillnes s broke n b y reply s o aptly spoken ,
“Doubtless,” sai d I , “wha t i t utter s i s it s onl y stock an d store
Caugh t fro m some unhapp y master whom unmerciful Disaste r
Followed fas t an d followe d faste r till his song s on e burden bore —
65 Till the dirge s o f his Hope tha t melancholy burden bore
O f ‘Never—nevermore. ‘ ”
But the Rave n stil l beguiling my sad fancy int o smiling ,
Straight I wheele d a cushione d sea t i n front of bird, an d bus t an d
Then, upon the velve t sinking , I betoo k mysel f t o linking
70 Fancy unt o fancy , thinkin g what thi s ominou s bir d o f yore —
What thi s grim , ungainly, ghastly , gaunt , an d ominou s bir d o f yor e
Meant i n croakin g “Nevermore.”
This I sat engage d i n guessing, bu t n o syllable expressin g
T o the fowl whos e fier y eye s no w burne d int o my bosom’ s core;
75 This an d more I sat divining, wit h my hea d a t eas e reclinin g
O n the cushion’s velve t linin g tha t the lamp-ligh t gloated o’er,
But whos e velvet-viole t linin g wit h the lamp-ligh t gloatin g o’er,
She shall press , ah , nevermore!
Then, methought, the air gre w denser, perfumed fro m a n unseen
so Swung b y seraphim
whos e foot-fall s tinkled o n the tufte d floor .
“Wretch,” I cried , “th y Go d hat h len t thee-—by these angel s h e hat h
sen t the e
Respite—respit e an d nepenthe
fro m thy memorie s o f Lenore ;
Quaff, oh quaff thi s kin d nepenthe an d forge t thi s los t Lenore!”
Quoth the Rave n “Nevermore.”
85 “Prophet!” sai d I , “thin g o f evil!—prophe t still, i f bir d o r devil! —
Whether Tempte r sent, o r whethe r tempes t tosse d the e her e ashore,
Desolate ye t all undaunted, o n thi s deser t lan d enchanted—
O n thi s home b y Horror haunted—tell me truly , I implore —
I s there— i s there bal m i n Gilead?
-—tel l me—tel l me , I implore!”
90 Quoth the Rave n “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” sai d I , “thin g o f evil!—prophe t still, i f bir d o r devil !
By tha t Heaven tha t bend s abov e us—b y tha t Go d we bot h adore—
Tell thi s sou l wit h sorro w laden if, withi n the distant Aidenn,
I t shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angel s name Lenore —
95 Clasp a rar e an d radiant maiden whom the angel s name Lenore.”
Quoth the Rave n “Nevermore.”
4 . Angels o f the highest order .
5. Oblivion-inducin g drug.
6 . As i n Jeremia h 8.22: “Is ther e n o bal m i n Gil -ead; i s ther e n o physicia n there? ” Evergreen s grow-in g i n Gilead, a mountainou s are a eas t of the
Jordan River , wer e tappe d for medicinal resins .
7 . Invente d place-name, suggestive o f Eden .
980 / EDGAR ALLAN POE
“Be tha t word ou r sig n o f parting , bir d o r fiend!” I shrieked,
“Ge t the e bac k int o the tempes t an d the Night’s Plutonian shore !
Leave n o black plum e a s a token o f tha t lie thy sou l hat h spoken !
Leave my lonelines s unbroken!—qui t the bus t abov e my door!
Tak e thy bea k fro m ou t my heart , an d tak e thy for m fro m off my door! ”
Quoth the Rave n “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, neve r flitting , stil l i s sitting, still i s sittin g
O n the pallid bus t o f Palla s jus t abov e my chambe r door ;
And his eye s hav e all the seemin g o f a demon’ s tha t i s dreaming ,
And the lamp-ligh t o’e r him streaming throws his shado w o n the floor ;
And my sou l fro m ou t tha t shadow tha t lie s floating o n the floor
Shal l b e lifted—nevermore !
Gail y bedight,
A gallant knight,
I n sunshin e an d i n shadow ,
Had journeyed long,
Singin g a song ,
I n searc h o f Eldorado .
But h e gre w old —
This knigh t s o bold—
And o’e r his heart a shadow
Fell a s h e foun d
N o spo t o f ground
ANNABEL LEE / 981
Annabel Le e
I t wa s many an d many a yea r ago ,
I n a kingdo m b y the sea ,
Tha t a maiden there lived whom yo u ma y know
By the name o f Annabe l Lee;
5 And thi s maiden sh e lived wit h n o other though t
Tha n t o lov e an d b e loved b y me .
She wa s a child an d I wa s a child ,
I n thi s kingdo m b y the sea ,
But we loved wit h a lov e tha t wa s more tha n love—
10 I an d my Annabe l Lee—
With a lov e tha t the winged seraphs
o f Heaven
Coveted he r an d me .
And thi s wa s the reaso n that, lon g ago ,
I n thi s kingdo m b y the sea ,
15 A win d ble w ou t o f a cloud b y nigh t
Chilling my Annabe l Lee;
S o tha t he r highbor n kinsme n came
And bor e he r away fro m me ,
T o shu t he r u p i n a sepulchre
20 In thi s kingdo m b y the sea .
The angels, no t hal f s o happ y i n Heaven ,
Went envying he r an d me :
Yes! tha t wa s the reaso n (as all me n know ,
I n thi s kingdo m b y the sea )
25 That the wind came ou t o f the cloud , chilling
And killin g my Annabe l Lee.
But ou r lov e i t wa s stronge r b y far tha n the lov e
O f those wh o wer e older tha n we —
O f many far wiser tha n we —
30 And neither the angel s i n Heaven abov e
Nor the demon s down unde r the sea ,
Can eve r disseve r my sou l fro m the sou l
O f the beautiful Annabe l Lee:
For the moo n neve r beam s withou t bringin g me dreams
35 Of the beautiful Annabe l Lee;
And the stars neve r ris e bu t I see the brigh t eye s
O f the beautiful Annabe l Lee;
And so, all the night-tide , I li e down b y the sid e
O f my darling , my darling , my life an d my bride ,
4 0 In he r sepulchre there b y the sea —
I n he r tomb b y the sid e o f the sea .
9 . Angels o f the highest order .
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