Before the after: Anticipatory anxiety and experience claimed in Poe’s angelic dialogues

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Abstract

Poe’s three “angelic dialogues” or “colloquies”—“The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” (1839), “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” (1841), and “The Power of Words” (1845)—are narratives of the most profound forms of trauma possible: the literal end of the world in the sense of both the death of an individual and the apocalyptic destruction of the entire planet . In each narrative, angels converse in Aidenn, Poe’s version of heaven, about their deaths, the annihilation of the planet, and the uncertainties of the universe . This essay argues that Poe’s angelic dialogues possess the potential to elicit what E . Ann Kaplan calls “Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome”—anticipatory fear and anxiety created by narratives set in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future . They do so by thematizing what we could refer to as “anticipatory belatedness,” the unsettling proposition that the only prediction we can make from the present is that we will not understand what has happened until we somehow impossibly put the pieces together after the end . In other words, the anticipatory anxiety evoked by Poe’s post-apocalyptic angelic narratives—in keeping with post-apocalyptic narratives in general—is that our future will be a traumatic one that we will miss while it is happening .

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-109
Number of pages19
JournalPoe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation
Volume52
StatePublished - 2019

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