oa Alternation - Re-reading the Purloined letter

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



The work of Edgar Poe has served as a touchstone for shifts in psychoanalytic criticism throughout the twentieth century. There is a vast array of critical interpretations that have developed around his work, it might seem that Poe has become all things to all critics. In particular, the critical body that clusters around the story The Purloined Letter forms a dossier of debates within psychoanalytic literary interpretation. L.R. Williams (1995:38) asserts that it is hardly surprising that Poe should have become a special object of psychoanalytic interest as his stories and poems pivot around such concerns as: mental aberration, decay or the indefinitions of sexual identity, the exquisite impossibility of fixed knowledge in a world in which truth is an endlessly circulating, maddeningly unfixed ideal or image, never to be pinned down or guaranteed. Debate around The Purloined Letter has been prolific. The average reader might consider The Purloined Letter to be just an intriguing detective short story.

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