“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a much-investigated tale of murder and disturbing report. In this article, I aim to show how sounds enforce meaning in the story, and how two rhetorical devices—ekphrasis and hypotyposis—can be used to highlight the different ways the story can be interpreted. Following the strategy lately championed by Brett Zimmerman, the work outlines a procedure by which reader effects can be qualitatively analyzed instead of speculating on “what really happened” in the story and what Poe might have meant with it. Even though ekphrasis and hypotyposis have been mostly used in the study of visual images, there is no reason why they could not be productively applied in the study of sounds in literature. As my analysis of the story will make clear, the visual images mentally produced in one's reading of a literary text are often inextricably meshed with sounds—in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the creaking hinges of a lantern, the scurrying of nocturnal insects, the military beat of the exigent heart, to name just a few. In fact, the auditory quality of these images is best illuminated by the rhetorical strategies this article sets forth to expand the ways of reading Poe's narratives.

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