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The female characters that populate the stories of Edgar Allan Poe are often ethereal creatures of great beauty, ghost-like figures that exist on the fringes of the narrative, very rarely taking part in the action of the plot. This, for the most part, is the case with regard to the female characters featured in Poe’s “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Both the eponymous Ligeia and Madeline Usher exist as virtual non-presences for the vast majority of these stories – at least until the point of their mysterious deaths. After these women pass away due to strange, unnamable illnesses, they suddenly become vibrantly present in the stories that heretofore they had been absent from. Each is “resurrected”, and finds power through this return from the grave. Rather than simply existing as things of beauty for their male counterparts to speak of and muse upon with objectifying language, Ligeia and Madeline become figures of awe and terror – individuals to fear and respect.


Undergraduate paper submitted in May 2013 as a requirement for the course Literature of the American Renaissance taught by Dr. Richard Magee in the English Department of Sacred Heart University.

Presented at the 2014 International Honors Society Sigma Tau Delta conference in Savannah, GA March 1, 2014.



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