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Poe, Edar Allen. (1809 - 1849).

L i f e

- son of wandering actors: his mother died when he was young, his father disappeared, adopted by the childless Richmond merchant John Allen

- lived with his aunt Mrs Clemm in Baltimore, and married her daughter Virginia when she was 14 years old

- worked as an editor for a Richmond magazine x but: dismissed for drinking; then worked with several magazines in Philadelphia; and unsuccessfully attempted to start a magazine of his own

- enjoyed a popular impact of his editorial writings, critical reviews, poems, and short stories

- the death of his wife of TBC (when she was 25), his excessive drinking, and his over-extension resulted in his death

W o r k

- in the tradition of Romanticism and Gothicism, anticipated Symbolism

- exploited the unconscious, the dark corners of human mind, mental illnesses, and the border states between sleeping and being awake

- interested in beauty combined with terror, unreasonable violence, and other deviations of nature

- interested primarily in the effect of the symbol x not the meaning: a symbol should not be transparent x but: the referent should be obscure

F i c t i o n :

- aims at truth = ‘the satisfaction of the intellect’, demands precision and the objects

- passion = ‘the excitement of the heart’, demands homeliness

=> therefore both Truth and Passion are antagonistic to Beauty and the Soul (“Philosophy of Composition”, 1846)

- preoccupied with the psychological aspect of a sick mind

- wrote horror tales, mystery tales, and detective stories (developed mystery of a closed room, a slower and a wise detective to explain the mystery, police on a wrong trace, etc.)


(1) Arabesque: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839)

(2) Grotesque

(3) Ratiocinative: stories of rational analysis

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1938):

- his only complete novel

- first published as a hoax in the Richmond magazine he co-edited

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1839):

- a ratiocinative

Tales by Edgar A. Poe (1845)
“MS Found in a Bottle” (1833):

- won him the first prize in a story contest in a Baltimore paper

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841):

- a detective story

“Gold-Bug” (1843):

- won him fame and the top prize in a Philadelphia newspaper

P o e t r y :

- aims at Beauty = an ‘intense and pure elevation of soul--not of intellect, or of heart’

=> poetry should appeal only to the sense of beauty x not truth  (“Philosophy of Composition”)

- rejects didactic poetry, and realistic details in poetry: poetry should evoke mood rather than meaning

- emphasises forethought

(a) early poetry: typically Romantic in form and content

(b) mature poetry: little progress beyond the Romantic Gothicism in subject x but: remarkable in technique (“The Raven”, “Ulalume”, and “The Bells”)

Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827):

- his first collection, published on his own expense

Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829)
The Raven and Other Poems (1845)

- published by a prestigious publishing house

Eureka (1848):

a long prose poem explaining the nature of the universe

C r i t i c i s m :

- introduced a new criticism avoiding moralising, comments upon art, generalisation, and boasting off


(Portrait: W. S. Hartshorn. 1848. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Edgar Allen Poe. (1809 - 1849). American.
  • Work

    Poet. Short story writer. Critic. Author of "The Raven" (1845).
  • Genres

    Romanticism. Gothicism. Detective story.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.

His Short Stories

“Shadow” (1835)

“The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839)

“The Masque of the Red Death” (1842)

“The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842)

“The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843)

“The Balloon Hoax” (1844)

“The Purloined Letter” (1845)

“The Cask of Amontillado” (1846)

His Poems

“Sonnet--To Science” (1829)

“Israfel” (1831)

“To Helen” (1831)

“The Raven” (1845)

“Ulalume: A Ballad” (1847)

“Annabel Lee” (1849)


"I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is taste. With the intellect or with the conscience, it has only collateral relations. Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either with duty or with truth".

Edgar Allen Poe


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