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Allusion in The Fall of the House of Usher

Allusion Examples in The Fall of the House of Usher:

The Fall of the House of Usher

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"and, at length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

An “incubus” is an evil spirit or demon that originated as a personification of a nightmare. This demon supposedly descends on sleepers, sitting on their chests and bringing them nightmares. Here, the narrator states that this demon has created a waking nightmare for him. This line also serves as a visual callback to his earlier mention of Fuseli, the painter whose work “The Nightmare” depicts just such an incubus sitting on a sleeping woman’s chest.

"Pomponius Mela..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Pomponius Mela was a Roman geographer writing around the year 45 CE and is most known for his work De Situ Orbis, from which Poe’s narrator takes this information on satyrs and “Ægipans.”

"the Directorium Inquisitorum, by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Nicholas Eymeric (1316–1399) wrote his Directorium Inquisitorum in the year 1376 and it remained his most prominent work. This text served as a large compilation of previous works on witchcraft and sorcery, and Eymeric uses these works to create a type of guide or manual for inquisitors to use when looking for and interrogating heretics and other “unholy” figures.

"the City of the Sun of Campanella..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Tommaso Campanella, an Italian Dominican philosopher, published a Latin version of The City of the Sun in 1623. This text espoused the ideas of a theocratic utopia ruled by benevolent religious leaders.

"the Journey into the Blue Distance of Tieck..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773–1853) was a German author, critic, editor, and translator who also helped found the Romantic movement in Germany during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

"the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D'Indaginé, and of De la Chambre..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The word “chiromancy” refers to the telling of fate and fortunes by reading the creases on one’s hands and palms. These three figures that Poe’s narrator cites were all physicians and philosophers who also studied the occult, and so their “chiromancy” likely refers to their work on predicting future outcomes and fates.

"the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by Holberg..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Known as Niels Klim's Underground Travels in more recent translations of the original Latin, Ludvig Holberg’s satirical novel depicts a utopian society from the view of an outsider, poking fun at the systems of morality, science, and philosophy found within. The satire is enhanced by the science-fiction and fantasy elements within the novel, and it conveys the idea that the earth is hollow—an idea seen in later texts like Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.

"the Heaven and Hell of Swedenborg..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote this book in Latin and had it published in 1758. The book’s appeal lies in its concern with the possibility of life after the death of one’s physical body. Its presence among Roderick Usher’s books suggests that he too has considered life or meaning beyond death.

"the Belphegor of Machiavelli..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

Niccolò Machiavelli’s novella Belfagor arcidiavolo was published with his collected works in 1549 and tells a tale of the demon Belphegor’s marriage to a human woman and the consequences from that union. The demon Belphegor has also featured in John Milton’s Paradise Lost and is associated with Sloth, one of the seven deadly sins.

"Ververt et Chartreuse of Gresset..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The French poet Jean-Baptiste-Louis Gresset (1709–1777) is best known for his poem Vert-Vert, which tells the story of a parrot’s learning to speak. Poe’s narrator also refers to another poem of Gressett’s, La Chartreuse.

"“The Haunted Palace,”..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

This is a poem by Poe, which is often printed separately from this story. It was first published in April of 1839 but did not find initial success, possibly leading to Poe’s including it in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The poem relates the events of a king from long ago who fears the evil forces that plague him and his palace. The poem serves as an allegory for the House of Usher, foreshadowing the impending doom Roderick faces.

"the last waltz of Von Weber..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

This is an allusion to German composer Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber's (1786–1826) Invitation to the Dance, written in 1819. The narrator alludes to this beautiful and romantic piece of music to illustrate how solemn and dark his time with Roderick Usher has become: the way Usher performs casts a dark, perverse shadow upon music, such as Invitation, the narrator once thought beautiful.

"Fuseli..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

This is a reference to Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), a Romantic painter born in Switzerland who created terrifying and grotesque paintings. His best known painting is entitled “The Nightmare” (1781), which shows a sleeping woman with a demonic figure sitting on her chest. The vivid reaction the narrator has to Roderick’s art calls to mind the grotesque images of Fuseli.

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