Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait’: A Gazing Game

By Bristi Basu.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Feminist film theory, with its strong moorings in psychoanalysis, has found wide-ranging applications-- it has been put to good use not only to study the visual arts but also to study literature. By exploring the concept of the GAZE it has been able to give very interesting reading of many Texts. The paper tries to give a psychoanalytic reading to Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait.’ It has for its focus the concept of the gaze & tries to study how the gaze operates from various perspectives depending on the subject of the gaze (bearer of the book) and the object (that which is being looked at ). There is a detailed analysis of how voyeurism & fetishization operate in this story. The gaze is analyzed from the point of view of three ‘characters’ -- the narrator , the painter , & the woman in the portrait – and there has been an effort to bring out the nuances of this ‘monolithic’ concept , keeping in view the intentions of the bearers of the look. The language in the story also has been subjected to a psychoanalytic reading mainly to bring out the violence that is couched in it. The paper concludes with a few personal observations about Poe’s stance regarding the featuring of the woman in the story.

Keywords: Woman, Psychoanalysis, Violence, Gaze

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.73-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 490.601KB).

Dr. Bristi Basu

Department of English, Rabindra Bharati University, India

I teach under-graduation and post-graduation students from rural as well as urban background. I have been on the job for 10 years now and remain young at heart and eager to learn. I belong to a conventional middle class Bengalee family, but have unconventional parents with whom I have travelled across this multi-cultural melting pot of a nation called India. While on the move, my status as an outsider has taught me to appreciate difference and respect all those who have to struggle in order to express themselves. I went to schools in Kolkata, Shillong, Delhi and Ahmedabad which gave me a chance to travel between locations and educational ideologies. I went to a Jesuit college in Ahmedabad and completed my post-graduation from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. I worked on my doctoral project at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad and received my degree in 2001 for my dissertation entitled ‘Winner Take Nothing’: Subversive Power Relationships in Poe’s Short Stories. I have chosen to become a teacher. It has given me the space to be unconventional without having to transgress the boundaries of the conventional – third world; middle class; woman – which is no doubt a challenging proposition. I am interested in culture studies and the new literatures and harbour a desire to visit the sites of the ancient cultures of the world. I live and work in Kolkata, am married, and have a three year old son.


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