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N/A Edgar Allen Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" Barbara Leavy
Abstract 1

Poe's story is often taken to be the first piece of detective fiction in English.  When the bodies of two murdered women are discovered, Augustus Dupin, the forebearer of such detectives as Sherlock Holmes, takes on solving the crime.  He interrogates witnesses, examines the crime scene and the locked room in which the murders took place, and concludes that no human being was the perpetrator of this crime.  Subsequently he talks to a sailor who had brought an orangutan from Borneo to the United States in order to sell it, and the story of the ape and the murdered women comes out.

Abstract 2

This often discussed Poe story is culturally more complex than most commentators have indicated.  A long tradition had it that it was the animal side of human beings that was their most inferior quality and therefore it is not far-fetched to create an orangutan-criminal.  But much had changed in Poe's time, including evolutionary theories that claimed a close connection between the animal and human worlds, and a new "chain of being" competed with an older one.  Humans were no longer conceived of as the link between the natural and the spiritual world, but as the top link in a chain of natural beings the highest of which were people. My discussion of Poe's tale will draw on many sources, including newspaper stories Poe is known to have read.  In terms of my five-part essay, it will introduce the unfortunate and still persistent association of black people with apes and work toward Mosley's novel.  My reading, so far as I know, is an original take on the story and I argue that the question is not so much how much of an animal exists in humans, but rather how much of humans can be found in animals.  I take the shaving scene to dramatize the desire of Poe's orangutan to join the human world and  its fury when it is instead rejected and punished.  Read More...
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