Taylor’s essay complicates Simon Estok’s analysis of ecophobia by illustrating, first, that fear of the natural world need not lead to its domination, and second, that ecophilia—ecophobia’s presumptive opposite—represents not a solution to this problem but an extension of the same logic under another name. Extended readings of Henry David Thoreau (“Walking”), Edgar Allan Poe (“The Island of the Fay,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Colloquy of Monos and Una”) and recent posthumanist discourse illuminate these points. Unlike his transcendentalist contemporaries and many current posthumanists, Poe represents the fusion of subjects and environments as a cataclysmic collapse, making the nonhuman environment the field against which discrete selves disappear as material bodies and as metaphysical entities. Poe’s texts thus foreclose both the idea that human selves are inherently distinct from or superior to their nonhuman environments and the seemingly antithetical (but actually coextensive) notion that we can self-constructively lose ourselves to the world. For Poe, the world can be made neither other nor mirror; if our ontological separation from the universe is a fantasy, then so too is our enabling kinship with it. What remains is an irresolvable fear regarding the uncertain borders between persons and environments. The essay concludes with a consideration of the implications of such a fear for ecocriticism.
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June 1, 2012
Matthew A. Taylor; The Nature of Fear: Edgar Allan Poe and Posthuman Ecology. American Literature 1 June 2012; 84 (2): 353–379. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1587377
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