University of Oulu

Toikkanen, J. (2021) At the Cutting Edge: Touch Images in Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Pit and the Pendulum', Connotations: a journal for critical debate 30, 1-23,

At the cutting edge : touch images in Edgar Allan Poe’s ’The Pit and the Pendulum’

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Author: Toikkanen, Jarkko
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Waxmann, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-11-16


The sense of touch, a less studied aspect of “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), is peculiar to how Poe’s story is experienced. Along the way, both for the narrator telling his story in retrospect and for the reader responding to his words, there are strange and awful things to be felt—some of which go unseen, others appear in full view. The analysis will focus on the imagined touch perceptions the words mediate, and how they are rhetorically presented as literary images. In this use, the term “literary image” refers to how sensory perceptions and abstract ideas take shape in the form of words, with touch images as the special object of study. Their functioning is compared to other kinds of sensory images they are joined with in Poe’s story.

I hypothesize that some images call for explanation, creating ekphrastic anticipation when they lead the narrator or reader on to a course of interpretation, speculating on ideas and searching for meaning. Some images are only felt, with no particular meaning attached, functioning as hypotypotic cues whose primary effect is to propel the narrative onward, while making the awful milieu tangible. Whereas previous readings have often searched for the meaning of universal themes such as life and death, I focus on how reading PP enables the search. What is specifically compelling about Poe’s story? How does the interaction between perceptions, words, and ideas constitute a distinctive medial dynamic? Sensory studies and affect theory, as well as rhetoric and Burkean aesthetics, will be used as the theoretical framework, to which my three-tier model of mediality designed for the practical criticism of literary and other media texts adds a layer.

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Series: Connotations
ISSN: 0939-5482
ISSN-E: 2626-8183
ISSN-L: 0939-5482
Volume: 30
Pages: 1 - 23
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 6122 Literature studies
518 Media and communications
Copyright information: A Journal for Critical Debate (E-ISSN 2626-8183) by the Connotations Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.