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Title: The human enigma : examining the link between human beings and cryptograms through Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories
Authors: Grech, Diana
Keywords: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Criticism and interpretation
Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Characters
Cryptography in literature
Issue Date: 2017
Abstract: The first chapter acts as an introduction and a sketch of the argument. It brings up several important issues which will be covered throughout the thesis. The chapter establishes Poe’s characters as human enigmas and therefore introducing the idea that the stories may be allegories of the cryptanalyst while deciphering his codes. Other points raised in this chapter include the importance of knowing how to analyse one’s subject properly, the attraction of the unknown and the defining elements distinguishing Dupin from the narrator in ‘The Man of the Crowd’. The second chapter involves a historical overview of cryptography. It reveals human’s inclination to keep their written communications private and safe, and how they feel threatened if unexpected readers pry into their messages. The story of cryptography through the ages, will be linked to Poe’s work by looking at his essays related to cryptanalysis and recounting his challenges to the readers of the ‘Alexander’s Weekly Messenger’. The latter section of the chapter suggests that cryptographic elements have found their way into his stories, which seem to act as guides in deciphering codes. The third chapter contains more speculation, as it suggests that Poe uses his human characters to act as enigmas which must be understood by the main character of the story in question. The similarities between human and textual enigmas, such as the similar sensations aroused by the presence of a secretive code or a mysterious human being, are brought up. This chapter also points out how the same approach is required in order to examine and analyse both humans and language. The final chapter, which functions as a conclusion, also provides an in-depth analysis of what has been suggested in the previous chapter and focuses on the narrator’s failure to understand the old man in ‘The Man of the Crowd’. The flaws in the narrator’s scrutiny of the man-puzzle are brought out in comparison to Dupin’s successful investigations in the detective stories. The chapter concludes that thought is what makes Dupin the more superior detective. The thesis implies that thought is the language through which human beings communicate with themselves, and that ciphers are therefore thought made tangible. Since text allows insight into other people’s consciousness, cryptography is possibly linked to psychoanalysis, therefore allowing code-breaking methods to decrypt the human mind.
Description: B.A.(HONS)ENGLISH
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2017
Dissertations - FacArtEng - 2017

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