By Paul Hurh
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Extra resources for American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville
In horror’s frame, the monster is object; it is locatable in the world and in the text; it is capable of being destroyed or rehabilitated; and perhaps most importantly, it is interpretable in a fairly straightforward symptomatic way. In terror’s frame, the monster is subject; it is only gestured at by the world of the text; it can neither be destroyed nor rehabilitated; and most importantly, it resists interpretation because it takes to task the very categories and assumptions central to the impulse to explain away, to rationalize, to ameliorate fear.
A pragmatic idealist, such as Emerson, would see Melville’s alternative—the framing of philosophy’s mission as radical agon—as a commitment to despair, as a deliberate madness, or at best, as a pathological residue of fossilized religious doctrine. 27 INTRODUCTION 23 But even Ishmael and Starbuck can feel the tug of Ahab’s madness. And Cavell’s essays on Poe’s skepticism as well as Grimstad’s recognition of pragmatic practices in Poe and Melville make apparent the proximity of the skeptical tradition to the pragmatist one.
The Mathers may have refrained from disrobing in the pews, but wasn’t the substance of their terror and Davenport’s—the fear of being damned to hell’s fires—basically the same? The question of the significance of Puritan expressions of terror, and especially the changing nature of that expression over the seventeenth and eigh- 38 AWA K E N I N G T E R R O R teenth centuries, has been the site of influential studies that use the jeremiad sermon as an index to the period’s cultural dynamics. The changes in the jeremiad’s traditional imprecatory form, according to these studies, reflect wider social and theological tectonics.
American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville by Paul Hurh