While drawing on mythology and a literary history that associated women with death as well as creativity, Edgar Allan Poe and Sylvia Plath experimented with binary oppositions such as masculine/feminine, composition/decomposition, and death/(re)birth. They gained inspiration from the same source, the dead muse, but how do they transform traditions that derive from classical and medieval literary precedent, perhaps in ways that are inherently critical of patriarchal modes of gender dynamics? Why is Poe fixated on a feminine dead muse while Plath is inspired by what she calls her “father-sea-god muse”? How do both authors represent the female body, and how do they link it to death and rebirth? This thesis centralizes the dead muse as a literary and cultural symbol through close readings of Poe and Plath that examine selected poems and key prose statements that enable their creative work to be viewed in sociosexual terms as an adventure of writing, the imagination and the human body.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


English & Comparative Literature Department

Degree Name

MA in English & Comparative Literature

Graduation Date

Summer 6-15-2023

Submission Date


First Advisor

William Melaney

Committee Member 1

Tahia Abdel Nasser

Committee Member 2

Steven Salaita


66 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item