The Life and Works of E. A. Poe: a Psychoanalytic Interpretation  

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"When one of these great perverts such as Vacher [a French serial killer] or Kürten [a German serial killer] appears on the scene, men who kill simply for pleasure, a wave of excitement sweeps through the masses. Not only by the mere horror, but by a strange interest in the crime, which is our deep-rooted sadism's response to theirs. It is as though, civilized and wretched, with our instincts fettered, we were all, in some way, grateful to these great and disinterested criminals for offering us, from time to time, the spectacle of our most culpable, primitive desires at last enacted." --Marie Bonaparte, [...]

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The Life and Works of E. A. Poe: a Psychoanalytic Interpretation (1933, Edgar Poe. Étude psychanalytique) is a psychobiography and a psychoanalytic reading of the work of Edgar Allan Poe written by Princess Marie Bonaparte. Jacques Lacan made use of her commentary in his seminar on "The Purloined Letter."


Poe's impotence

Marie Bonaparte's thesis is that Poe's art was the product of neurosis. According to Bonaparte, Poe was a "repressed sado-masochist and necrophilist" (299). Bonaparte also claimed that Poe was impotent: "It was opium, Hervey Allen claims, which made Poe sexually impotent, since his conduct with Mary Devereaux was still entirely normal." (85) Central to her thesis that Poe was impotent is her analysis of the story "Loss of Breath" where she equates breath with life force, hence male potency. She cites Baudelaire who said "il n’y a pas dans toute son œuvre un seul passage qui ait trait à la lubricité ou même aux jouissances sensuelles" in "Edgar Poe, sa vie et ses œuvres".


  • "The love of pleasant smells derives from that of bad, which were originally. the good smells to the child before education repressed its pleasure in them into its opposite, disgust. This pleasure in these first odoriferous substances survives in animals, particularly in the dog, while in many people original traces remain in the predilection for strong cheeses, "high" meat and game."

Similar works

René Laforgue, had published The Defeat of Baudelaire: A Psychoanalytical Study of the Neurosis of Charles Baudelaire with the same publisher [1].


Bonaparte, Marie. (1949). The life and works of Edgar Allan Poe, a psycho-analytic interpretation (John Rodker, Trans.). London: Imago. (Original work published 1933)

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