The psychology behind the physical descriptions in "Ligea" : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I have studied Ligea before and recall that during Poes time, there was a belief that the specific physical structres of a persons body, especially their face, determined what kind of person they were. What is this study called and what does the descriptions given for Ligea tell us about her?

-- Anonymous, May 29, 2000



Presumably, the study to which you refer was known as phrenology and, actually, was a study of the human nervous system based upon the shape of the skull. Originally suggested as a serious science by Franz J. Gall, a Viennese doctor, it was later discredited but did make some contributions to the idea that various parts of the brain served specific functions. It remained popular into the 20th century. It was assumed the development of the brain forced specific, consistent and identifiable structures of the cranium and skull cap. Therefore, according to phrenologists of the day, a persons predisposition, his intelligence, his personality and other mental attributes (or lack thereof) could be determined simply by skull measurements and examination of the skull (probing the skull with the fingertips) based on the age of the patient. I do not recall the specifics but phrenology was based on five principles, the first of which was that the brain was the organ of the mind.

If I understand your question properly, I seriously doubt Poes description of Ligeia was based on phrenology, relative to the strength of the human will and certainly had little to do with her beauty or her passion for life. Poes descriptions tell us that Ligeia was a woman of exceptional beauty with a strength and superior intelligence that was supernatural.

The short story Ligeia is the tale of the triumph of the human will over death. Poes exquisitely detailed and carefully crafted descriptions of Ligeias penetrating beauty, her intellectual prowess, the strength of her soul and the mutual passion they shared for one another, all could be seen within her single supreme feature, the eyes of Ligeia. This rather extravagant illustration of Ligeia was most certainly intentional on Poes part and the reader was expected to remember it. As the narrator sat at the bedside of Rowena and watched her, he witnessed the struggle for life between Rowena and Ligeia, a supernatural struggle that Rowena was simply outmatched and could not win.

As Rowena rose from her death bed and approached her husband, it was only then that he recognized that it was not Rowena that had returned from death, but it could only be, . the full, and the black, and the wild eyes of my lost love. of the Lady of the Lady Ligeia

Excellent story though dont you think?


-- Anonymous, June 04, 2000

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