The essay returns Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter" to The Gift: A Christmas, New Year, and Birthday Present, 1845, the gift book in which it was originally published, in order to explore its relationship to its apparently arbitrary frame. Correspondences among Poe's tale and the ones that surround it in The Gift invite us to read "The Purloined Letter" in relation to the social economy of the gift book and against the background of what could be called its generic plot. While the mainstream stories reemphasize commercial strategy based on commodified seduction, I contend that "The Purloined Letter" provides us with a more complex model that both fulfills the reader's expectations and critiques the underlying ideology of "The Gift." I therefore show how Poe "purloins" the gift book's typical gender economy and how the homosocial eroticism of his tale bears on its famous twentieth-century readings.
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Research Article| December 01 2009
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Alexandra Urakova; "The Purloined Letter" in the Gift Book: Reading Poe in a Contemporary Context. Nineteenth-Century Literature 1 December 2009; 64 (3): 323–346. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncl.2009.64.3.323
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