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Book Chapter

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Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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Immensely tall trunks of trees, gray, and leafless, rose up in endless succession as far as the eye could reach. Their roots were concealed in wide-spreading morasses .... And the strange trees seemed endowed with a human vitality, and waving to and fro their skeleton arms, were crying to the silent waters for mercy .... --Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

This dream sequence from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 novella serves as just one of countless examples of what remains a relatively understudied element of American gothic fiction: the gothic plant. Given, however, the increased interest in ontological questions related to nonhuman Others, particularly animals, theorists have begun to address plants as something more than merely green scenery upon an otherwise human stage. With this interest in the implications of plants within the humanistic sphere, it is especially productive to consider the plants represented in one of America’s most popular literary modes, the gothic. And plants emerge repeatedly in American gothic literature, from its most obscure to its most canonical texts. For example, laboring to convey the stricken mind of his ill friend, the unnamed narrator of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” remarks that, among a host of other peculiarities, Roderick Usher remained convinced “of the sentience of all vegetable things.”


This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge Press in Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature on November 22, 2017, available online: Posted with permission.

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Taylor & Francis



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