“The Purloined Letter,” Edgar Allan Poe's third and final tale featuring the detective Dupin, has evoked a long history of critical response. Criticism has tended to read the text for its role in the development of detective fiction and as illustrative of various theoretical positions. However, the implications of the “The Purloined Letter,” as a tale of ratiocination, has largely been left unexplored. “The Purloined Letter” explores logical processes of value and exchange, particularly economic exchange, in a manner very similar to what Charles Sanders Peirce will call pragmatism several decades later. Dupin's deductive methods and Peirce's abductive logic express the nature of objects in terms of social systems of preference and perception rather metaphysics. Peirce's classification of signs as icon, index, or symbol provides a framework of signification which can be read in conjunction with “The Purloined Letter” to flesh out the role of materiality and value in the theory of economic criticism. Reading value and exchange as part of a social system of signs, perceptions, and representations of value will serve to expose a penchant for material fetishism in economic criticism and provide a theory of currency, value, and exchange that contextualizes representational and material notions of value within the social and economic system that provides the processes and mechanisms of value determination. The way that the Prefect, the Minister D___, and Dupin each conceptualize the purloined letter as having a different representational relationship with value can be used to demonstrate Poe's abductive framework for economy.
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BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Douglas, Jason G., "Towards a New Currency of Economic Criticism" (2008). Theses and Dissertations. 1466.
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