Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Dr. Mary Balkun

Committee Member

Dr. John Wargacki


Jacques Lacan, Mirror Stage, Animal Studies, Poe, Raven, Black Cat, Desire, Loss, Death Drive


In both “The Raven” and “The Black Cat,” Edgar Allan Poe has the narrator project himself into an animal in order to fulfill the manifestation of his desire. Each animal is a projection of the narrator’s subconscious desire, which allows him to embrace his manic, sadistic tendencies. The manifestation of desire through animals in these stories can be best understood through two lenses: Jacques Lacan’s theory about the mirror stage and contemporary animal studies. Poe’s narrators are stuck in the mirror stage, which hinders them and does not allow their egos to grow and mature. Rather than developing crucial coping skills to deal with their desires, impulses, and needs, they irrationally act out, by yelling and hurting those around them as a means of self-expression. This is most obvious in the way each narrator projects himself upon an animal in order to deal with death. Ultimately, in both works, loss and the death drive lead to madness and the finality of death. No one can defeat death; it’s an inevitability that cannot be escaped. In both works animals serve as conduits of the knowledge that the ideal is never achievable and the end result of trying to defeat death is always the same.