“Smilers, Defilers, Reekers and Leakers” – Dogs as Tools of Subversion and Transgression in Short Stories by Edgar A. Poe, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce
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In this article I will analyze three satirical stories written by Edgar A. Poe, Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain. The common denominator of them is the presence of dogs and their eccentric subject matter and controversial narrative strategies have for many decades been treated as a major offense against the standards of literary taste. A closer analysis of such thoughtprovoking and critically underrated tales as “Toby Dammit,” “Oil of Dog” or “A Dog’s Tale” makes it evident that their powerful effect is possible thanks to transgression and subversion of generic expectations and aesthetic norms as well as social, political and religious issues that dominated the public discourse in the nineteenth-century United States. Furthermore, what might be perceived as a temporary rebellion or a mere irregularity in the literary oeuvre of three unquestionably canonical nineteenth-century writers is, in fact, a conscious, if risky, attempt on the part of Poe, Twain and Bierce to offer meaningful diagnoses of a society whose values and behaviours appear to be even more disgusting and irrational than the bizarre and often highly disturbing plotlines and extreme experiences in the fictitious worlds they created.
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