Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> The Psychological Concept of Monomania in Simms and Gogol >> Page 1

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription The Psychological Concept of Monomania
in Simms and Gogol


Eugenia A. Morozkina and Maria Erchtein
Ufa, Russia


An important trait of Romantic writers in Russian and American literature
is their attempt to penetrate the inner soul of a character's personality. Great
achievements in psychology in the prose of Pushkin, Lemontov, and Gogol in
Russia and Hawthorne and Poe in America are acknowledged by modern critics.
These writers investigate the emotional sphere of a human being and
consequently analyze the inner reasons of the individual's behavior concealed in
the frames of the conscious and the unconscious. As for Simms, his great role in
the formation of American psychological prose has not been thoroughly
investigated, though it can scarcely be exaggerated.
Compared to Poe and Hawthorne, Simms's approach to the spheres of
human psychology is fairly different. In his Twice Told Tales Hawthorne
analyzes the Puritan way of thinking and treats the problem of sin, temptation anD
expiation, though he does not delve deeply into the "mechanism" of human
emotions; this is mostly the prerogative of Poe, who pays special attention to th
so-called "spirit of perverseness." According to Poe, perverseness is "one of the
primitive impulses of the human heart — one of the indivisible primary faculties,
or sentiments," which give "direction to the character of Man." 1 It is Poe who
penetrates into the depth of the unconscious and studies the cases of mental
pathology, such as neurosis, neuropathy, and neurasthenia.
In this respect, Simms is a congenial soul, for he shares Poe's interest in
the sphere of 'the unconscious and he is also keen on depicting abnormal states oF
mind and anomalous mental conditions. Both writers are deeply interested in the
psychological nature of a criminal. Simms, like many of his literary
contemporaries, such as J. P. Kennedy, J. E. Cooke, A. B. Longstreet, studied

1 Poe, E. A., Prose and Poetry (Moscow: Raduga Publishers, 1983), p. 263.