By Paul Hurh
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Additional resources for American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville
We found in our mind a superiority over nature itself in its immensity” (Critique of Judgment 120). Such recourse from sublime terror to the promotion of the individual subject, of one’s own powers of mind, would be incomprehensible to Edwards, who professed the individual’s nothingness and ultimate dependence upon God, as well as to Poe and Melville, who through their fictions consistently locate their sublime-like terrors as originating in and ultimately challenging the sanctity of individual subjectivity.
We have seen above how difficult it can be to think about feeling, especially when the feeling itself, in the case of terror, is oriented toward the very operations that would produce knowledge. ” For the authors of this study, thinking is not a self-evident process or faculty. From Edwards’s interest in logic, Poe’s literary experimentation with the terms of analysis, and Melville’s INTRODUCTION 19 continued obsession with epistemological skepticism, all three authors engage with thinking about thinking, and find in logical method the clearest articulation of what thinking, as object, might be.
Set at a distance, the human and the divine unhinge, and a late-career Edwards pursues “an ideal, indifferent to the fact that, according to Edwards’s characterizations, it could not be implemented” (214n). Paradoxically, even perversely, committed to working out an idealist impersonality beyond the point at which it stops being useful, this Edwards would evacuate the self not into the plenitude of dynamic nature and experience but rather into the harshest scarcity of rule-bound and static quantitative abstraction.