Poe's familiarity with Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783), an influential and widely circulated rhetorical treatise in Poe's time, has been observed and discussed by several scholars. The link between Blair's rhetoric and Poe's works, however, still remains to be explored. This article addresses this issue with the application of Blair's rhetorical theory to three of Poe's early woman-centered tales—“Berenice,” “Morella,” and “Ligeia”—examining Poe's Gothicism and his Gothic stylistics. In the analysis, it is found that the effect of terror, or “the strange and mystical” in Poe's words, is often engendered by Poe's use of the periodic sentence, the cataphoric expression, and the parenthesis, devices that suspend semantic meaning and produce a sense of suspense. The distinctness and immediacy of horror, or the Poesque “horrible,” on the other hand, is frequently achieved through Poe's adoption of the simile/metaphor, the superlative, and adverbial intensifiers. In analyzing Poe's stylistics in these Gothic tales, Blair's rhetoric functions to account for and assess Poe's exploitation of certain stylistic devices. It also, at the same time, helps to demonstrate the development and evolution of Poe's Gothic style across time.

You do not currently have access to this content.