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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 1, Number 1 (January 2003) : 129-50
Poetics of Melancholy and Psychic Possession in Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters and Other Haunted Texts

Dianne Hunter
Rubric A: Topoi
Rubric B: English Poetry


Read intertextually with Edgar Allan Poe’s 1938 story “Ligeia” and other gothic accounts of melancholy and spousal mourning, Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters evinces ancestral haunting and literary vampirism. “Ligeia,” Hughes’s Birthday Letters in their biographical context, and the aftermath of the death of Eva Peron exemplify Abraham and Torok’s concept of how family histories communicate, via psychic crypts, a sense of possession by the dead. Insofar as intertextuality reveals how texts are lodged within one another and can be thought of as eating one other, literary history reveals itself as a vampiric tale.

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