Abstract

Edgar Allan Poe famously depicts the emergence of confined bodies in excessive or grotesque ways, as both living and dead bodies physically come out of graves, walls, and other forms of entombment in a variety of his tales. These failed confinements that do not successfully contain the entombed continue in later Gothic literature. Poe's “Berenice” (1835) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's “The Giant Wistaria” (1891) both depict buried bodies reemerging from graves. In these works, the line between dead and alive becomes skewed as the grave, the appropriate space for a dead body, is occupied by something still living or otherwise unsettled. Manipulating the Gothic trope of confinement, Poe and Gilman place undead characters in liminal spaces where they exist between two clear, defined states. In these confined spaces, characters hover between sanity and insanity, reality and fantasy, childhood innocence and adulthood sexuality, or life and death while attempting to navigate their own changing identities. Examining the liminal nature of characters in these two works provides a framework for better understanding how ambiguity and uncertainty serve a crucial role in the Gothic genre. Additionally, exploring connections between these two authors contributes to understandings of Poe's and Gilman's relationship and connections between their Gothic works.

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