Australian Journal of French Studies

Primates in Paris and Edgar Allan Poe’s Paradoxical Commitment to Foreign Languages

Australian Journal of French Studies (2021), 58, (1), 76–87.

Abstract

Drawing on recent innovations in detective criticism in France, this article broadens the quest to exonerate Poe’s famous orang-utan and argues that the Urtext of modern Anglo-American crime fiction is simultaneously a rejection of linguistic dominance (of English in this case) and an apologia for modern languages. This promotion of linguistic diversity goes hand in hand with the wilful non-self-coincidence of Poe’s detection narrative, which recalls, and pre-empts, the who’s-strangling-whom? paradox of deconstructionist criticism. Although “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is prescient, founding modern crime fiction for future generations, it is entwined with a nineteenth-century tradition of sculpture that not only poses men fighting with animals but also inverts classical scenarios, thereby questioning the binary of savagery versus civilization and investing animals with the strength to kill humans while also positing them as the victims of human violence.

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Author details

ROLLS, ALISTAIR