College of Liberal Arts

Department of English


Christina Zwarg

The Production of Affect and History in Poe's 'Tale of the Ragged Mountains'"

Can we walk into an experience that does not belong to us, especially a painful one tinged with prejudicial feelings? Poe’s “Tale of the Ragged Mountains” invites us to consider that possibility. In so doing, the 1844 story exposes how the vigorous currents of history can disturb new archives of feeling. This essay considers three related issues: 1) the ironic parallel between Poe’s use of the mesmeric crisis and Walter Benjamin’s utopian investment in Charles Fourier; 2) the British imperial archive concerning the eighteenth-century insurrection in Benares, India, which Poe deftly folds into his tale; and 3) the global reach of mesmerism itself, especially its connection to shifting political terrains and insurrections. Here, with an assist from Michael Taussig, the mimetic properties of the mesmeric encounter can explain the zones of “First Contact” proliferating throughout Poe’s tale, opening trauma theory to new historical meaning.







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