Rhetorical Deception in the Short Fiction of Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville

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This study analyzes an innovative rhetorical strategy employed in certain of the most challenging and frequently misunderstood stories of the American Renaissance, including ‘Young Goodman Brown,’ ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ and ‘Benito Cereno.’ In these stories, the reader is rhetorically beguiled into sharing the point of view of a character who is self-deluded and implicated in crime, yet whose true nature is never explicitly revealed, except through the works’ latent symbolic structure. Although the study draws on the insights of previous scholarship, it seeks to offer original readings of these stories, identifying them as a significant sub-genre of the modern short story.


“Terry Martin’s concise and compact book is a genuine contribution to the generic study of the short story. Thankfully free of pretentious jargon, clearly and gracefully written, it is a provocative analysis of a central characteristic of the form – one more welcome indication of the new respect with which scholars and critics now consider short fiction.” – from the Preface by Charles E. May

“Martin’s readings, like his style, are fresh and unforced. His inviting tone will make this book especially attractive to teachers. Without patronizing the texts under examination, Martin is open to (indeed often starts with) common reader responses to these ‘ultra-deceptive’ stories. . . . I found myself constantly thinking of new approaches to teaching ‘familiar’ texts.” – Wesley T. Mott

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface, Acknowledgments
Introduction: On the Ultra-deceptive Short Story
1. Anti-allegory and the Reader in ‘Young Goodman Brown’
2. Detection, Imagination, and the Introduction to ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’
3. ‘Benito Cereno’ and the American Confidence Man
4. The Rhetoric of the Ultra-deceptive Short Story
Bibliography, Index

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