Abstract

There is no doubt that “Berenice” is one of Poe’s most disturbing stories; much of this disturbance lies upon its “too horrible” subject—Poe’s words—in tune with the aesthetics of the grotesque that were present in certain publications of the nineteenth century. This grotesque component substantially increased the “graphicality” that characterizes Poe’s style by attracting the attention of many visual artists, ranging from some renowned illustrators who were Poe’s contemporaries, to some popular present-day comic-book artists, including Richard Corben, who provided two original interpretations of the tale. By drawing on a selection of visual renderings of Poe’s tale, this study looks at how the grotesque survives throughout all these adaptations, revealing the tale’s complexity, and even, in some cases, opening up new possible readings of the text. As will be shown, all these new works result in an interesting array of approaches to the woman protagonist; however, two perspectives have prevailed in the visual interpretation of “Berenice” since the nineteenth century: more idealistic or more grotesque. The final results will always depend on the artists’ personal perceptions, but they sometimes have also been determined by certain external circumstances—such as the Comics Code Authority, in the case of comic books.

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