Ligeia as a Triumph Over Patriarchy Essay

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Ligeia as a Triumph Over Patriarchy

From the time that "Ligeia" was written, critics have searched for meaning within Poe's story of a beautiful woman who died and returned in another's body. While all critics have moved in different directions, many have arguably found an allegorical meaning behind the tale. Because many literary theories depend on each other, contemporary critics tend not to limit themselves to any single theory. Many critics employ multiple theoretical perspectives at once so that a text can be best understood. Many critics have looked to Poe's relationship with women for understanding, combining biographical and feminist theory, while other critics use a variety of approaches, such as formalism and
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McEntee argues that Ligeia is the narrator's muse, and the narrator's artistic soul is at stake in the story. Ligeia's death, McEntee says, transforms the narrator "from passive scholar" under Ligeia's intellectual guidance to "active architect" (77). She shows how the narrator's gothic chamber is constructed as a form of art while Rowena is the audience. McEntee notes that the narrator is like a modern day reader-response critic as he watches the effects of his art on his audience, Rowena. Ultimately, McEntee illustrates how the tale provides both Ligeia and the narrator what they want, "insuring Ligeia the immortality she craves in his work of art while granting him the freedom to build her inspirations into his own great textual mansion" (82). Although McEntee argues for this formalist understanding quite effectively, she barely mentions Ligeia's request to hear "The Conqueror Worm," which could have strengthened her argument for the muse/artist allegorical interpretation.

However, a formalist analysis of "The Conqueror Worm" is approached by Brad Howard, who also reveals the publication history of "Ligeia." Howard informs the reader that "Ligeia" was first published without "The Conqueror Worm," and the poem was published alone before it was

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