A Liaison of Poetry and Tattoos: The Multivoicedness in Edgar Allan Poe’s Poem “The Raven”

  • Meike Watzlawik
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture book series (PASCC)


First published in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” has inspired many. For Poe himself, the raven—relentlessly repeating the word “Nevermore”—symbolizes a tragic and everlasting remembrance. Today, the poem has been translated into many languages, and has been interpreted in manifold ways. It has also been illustrated by numerous artists, and has been an inspiration for individuals looking for tattoo images. The key question in this chapter is why individuals chose a tattoo depicting an image from “The Raven.” Which aspect of the poem appealed to them the most, and why? The transformation of life events into words by the poet, then back into symbols representing other individuals’ life events and meanings, will be discussed in the light of dialogicality and multivoicedness.


  1. Bakhtin, M. (1973). Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis.Google Scholar
  2. Brockmeier, J., & Carbough, D. (Eds.). (2001). Narrative and identity. Studies in autobiography, self and culture. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. Brooks, P. (1993). Body work: Objects of desire in modern narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Deter-Wolf, A., Robitaille, B., Krutak, L., & Galliot, S. (2016). The world’s oldest tattoos. Journal of Archaeological Science, 5, 19–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gilligan, S. G., & Bower, G. H. (1984). Cognitive consequences of emotional arousal. In C. L. Izard, J. Kagan, & R. B. Zajonc (Eds.), Emotions, cognition and behavior (pp. 547–588). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Halász, L. (1983). Dem Leser auf der Spur. Literarisches Lesen als Forschen und Entdecken. Zur Sozialpsychologie des literarischen Verstehens. Braunschweig: Vieweg & Sohn.Google Scholar
  7. Hermans, H. J. M. (2001). The dialogical self: Toward a theory of personal and cultural positioning. Culture & Psychology, 7(3), 243–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hermans, H. J. M., & Hermans-Konopka, A. (Eds.). (2010). Dialogical self theory. Positioning and counter-positioning in a globalizing society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The dialogical self: Meaning as movement. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Holland, N. N. (2009). Literature and the brain. Gainesville, FL: The PsyArt Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Kjeldgaard, D., & Bengtsson, A. (2015). Consuming the fashion tattoo. Advances in Consumer Research, 32, 172–177.Google Scholar
  12. Lebel, R. (Ed.). (1959). Marcel Duchamp. New York: Paragraphic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Lotman, J. M. (1972). Die Struktur literarischer Texte. München: UTB.Google Scholar
  14. Mazur, L., & Watzlawik, M. (2016). Debates about the scientific status of psychology: Looking at the bright side. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 50(4), 555–567. Scholar
  15. Oksanen, A., & Turtiainen, J. (2005). A life told in ink: Tattoo narratives and the problem of the self in late modern society. AutoBiography, 13, 111–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Poe, E. A. (1845). The Raven. New York: Evening Mirror.Google Scholar
  17. Poe, E. A. (1846). The philosophy of composition. Graham’s Magazine, XXVIII(4), 163–167.Google Scholar
  18. Poe Museum. (Ed.). (2014). Museum collection: Flower from the tomb of Keats [online document]. Retrieved June 28, 2016, from
  19. Roberts, D. J. (2012). Secret ink: Tattoo’s place in contemporary American culture. Journal of American Culture, 35(2), 153–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Snell, D., Hodgetts, D., & McLeay, C. (2011). Identity, community and embodiment: Chopper’s tattoo tour. The Australian Community Psychologist, 23(1), 7–22.Google Scholar
  21. Stedman, E. C. (1884/2014). Comment on the poem. In E. A. Poe (Ed.), The Raven. Minneapolis, MN: First Avenue Editions.Google Scholar
  22. Sweetman, P. (1999). Only skin deep? Tattooing, piercing and the transgressive body. In M. Aaron (Ed.), The body’s perilous pleasure. Dangerous desires and contemporary culture (pp. 165–187). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Vitoriano, H. B. S., & Gomes, A. L. (2015). The Raven and the intermediality. Polifonia, Cuiabá-MT, 22(32), 104–118.Google Scholar
  24. Watzlawik, M., Silva Guimaraes, D., Han, M., & Jung, A. (2016). First names as signs of personal identity: An intercultural comparison. Psychology & Society, 8(1), 1–21.Google Scholar
  25. Weber, E. T. (2008). Proper names and persons: Peirce’s semiotic consideration of proper names. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 44(2), 346–362.Google Scholar
  26. Wertsch, J. V., & Smolka, A. L. B. (1994). Continuing the dialogue: Vygotsky, Bakhtin, and Lotman. In H. Daniels (Ed.), Charting the agenda. Educational activity after Vygotsky (pp. 69–90). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Wiley, N. (1994). The semiotic self. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  28. Zittoun, T. (2006). Dynamics and inferiority: Ruptures and transitions in self development. In L. Mathias Simão & J. Valsiner (Eds.), Otherness in question: Labyrinths of the self (pp. 187–214). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meike Watzlawik
    • 1
  1. 1.Sigmund Freud PrivatUniversität BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations