Again, What’s Going On Here?

Same professor, another seminar. This time it was Poe’s “Berenice.” Naturally, I thought vagina dentata was the way to go.

Naturally the world disagreed. Either way, Poe sure has a thing for dentistry.

…I shrank involuntarily from their glassy stare to the contemplation of the thin and shrunken lips. They parted; and in a smile of peculiar meaning, the teeth of the changed Berenice disclosed themselves slowly to my view. Would to God that I had never beheld them, or that, having done so, I had died!
* * * * * * *

The shutting of a door disturbed me, and, looking up, I found that my cousin had departed from the chamber. But from the disordered chamber of my brain, had not, alas! departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of the teeth. Not a speck on their surface – not a shade on their enamel – not an indenture in their edges – but what that period of her smile had sufficed to brand in upon my memory. I saw them now even more unequivocally than I beheld them then. The teeth! – the teeth! – they were here, and there, and everywhere, and visibly and palpably before me; long, narrow, and excessively white, with the pale lips writhing about them, as in the very moment of their first terrible development. Then came the full fury of my monomania, and I struggled in vain against its strange and irresistible influence. In the multiplied objects of the external world I had no thoughts but for the teeth. For these I longed with a phrenzied desire. All other matters and all different interests became absorbed in their single contemplation. They – they alone were present to the mental eye, and they, in their sole individuality, became the essence of my mental life. I held them in every light. I turned them in every attitude. I surveyed their characteristics. I dwelt upon their peculiarities. I pondered upon their conformation. I mused upon the alteration in their nature. I shuddered as I assigned to them in imagination a sensitive and sentient power, and even when unassisted by the lips, a capability of moral expression. Of Mademoiselle Salle it has been well said, “Que tous ses pas etaient des sentiments,” and of Berenice I more seriously believed que toutes ses dents etaient des idees. Des idees! – ah here was the idiotic thought that destroyed me! Des idees! – ah therefore it was that I coveted them so madly! I felt that their possession could alone ever restore me to peace, in giving me back to reason.


6 Responses to “Again, What’s Going On Here?”

  1. Zed Says:

    Vagina dentata as obsessive object of desire? Seems to me more of the classic Freudian fetish, the mother’s penis. I’ve only taken a quick look, but that seems like a productive reading.

  2. Dat Says:

    i dont understnd how it could be anything else other then vagina dentata…you know he drank himself to death avoiding those upperbites..the g-spot is actually where the gingivitis is…that’s why it’s so sensitive, even the pleasure spot is really just decay….des idees even sounds like an alliteral des dentes

  3. Dat Says:

    by the way…it’s only the intellectually and imaginatively toothless that can’t fathom this being vagina dentata…freakng americanists…america is as decayed as the teeth on berenices vagina. those americanists need periodontal work, their mind is left toothless

  4. darknessatnoon Says:

    The des idees/dents alliteration is correct. Also, vagina dentata is all about an idea overwhelming and overwriting true physicality. des idees, indeed.

  5. darknessatnoon Says:

    Zed, I think you’re making the strange error of confusing vaginas with penises. Which, I guess, is fine in the context of confusing toothed vaginas.

  6. Victoria J. van Dijk Says:

    Oh, Dat! Reading this is just like hearing your voice in my classroom once again! It was always so amusing, so terrifying.

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