Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Daniel Bronson

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


While it is clear that women play an important role in many of the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, in many of his stories that center around women, more specifically, “Morelia,” “Ligeia,” Berenice,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe, through his male protagonists, is conflicted over their characterization. On the one hand, these women are presented as extraordinarily powerful, which is manifested in either their intellectual or sexual dominance over their male counterparts. On the other, it is this dominance for which they are destroyed. In these tales the women must ultimately die—But why? In the case of Morelia and Ligeia, for example, the women’s superior intelligence is the symbolic key that could free them from their domestic “prisons” and give them an equal (or commanding) place in a world dominated by men. Similarly, Berenice and Madeline Usher are feared by their male counterparts, but these women are threatening not due to superior intellect but because of their sexuality. In “Morelia,” “Ligeia,” “Berenice,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the female protagonists are destroyed because their male counterparts fear and are threatened not only by the women themselves, but also by what they represent—intellectual and sexual dominance—which results in the loss of male authority.

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