Chapter 3: Nineteenth Century to 1865

Edgar Allan Poe

© Paul P. Reuben
October 16, 2016

Outside Links: |
Poe's Life | A Poe Webliography: EAP on the Internet | The EAP Society of Baltimore | "The Philosophy of Composition" | "The Poetic Principle" | "Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales - A Review" | Poe's Death | Killed by Rabies? |

Page Links: | Primary Works | Influence of Poe | Major Themes | Paradoxes in Poe | Four Types of Short Stories | Aesthetic Theory of Effect |

| Selected Bibliography: Biographical: 2000-Present Critical: 2000-Present |

| Study Questions | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

Site Links: |  Chap 3: Index  | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page |

Source: Library of Congress

Source: TopicSites - EAP

 Primary Works

Tamerlane and Other Poems, 1827 (poems); Al Aaraaf, Tamarlane, and Minor Poems, 1829 (poems); Poems: Second Edition, 1831 (poems); "Ms Found in a Bottle," 1835; Politan - A Tragedy, 1835 (play); The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, 1838 (novel); Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. 2 vols., 1840 (stories); The Prose Romances, 1843 (stories); Tales, 1845 (stories); The Raven and Other Poems, 1845 (poems); Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe, 1848 (criticism).

Burtons' gentleman's magazine and American monthly review (later title Graham's illustrated magazine). Philadelphia: G. R. Graham, 1840-1856. LAC: v.19 (1841)-v.33 (1848). LAC#31030-31037.

Collected works of Edgar Allan Poe. 3 vols. Ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1969. PS2600 .F69

The complete poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe, with selections from his critical writings. 2 vols. Ed. Arthur Hobson Quinn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978. PS2601 .Q5

Essays and reviews. New York: Viking Press, 1984. PS2619 .A1

The fall of the house of Usher. Ed. Eric W. Carlson. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill, 1971. PS2614 .A1

Letters. Ed. John Ward Ostrom. 2 vols. New York: Gordian Press, 1966. PS2631 .A33

Literary criticism of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Robert L. Hough. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965. PS2619 .A1

Marginalia. Ed. John Carl Miller. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981. PS2622 .M3

The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Boston: D. R. Godine, 1973. PS2618 .N3

The unknown Poe: an anthology of fugitive writings by Edgar Allan Poe, with appreciations by Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme, Paul Valery, J.K. Huysmans & Andre Breton. ED. Raymond Foye. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1980. PS2603 .F6

Quinn, Alice. ed. Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Frank, Frederick S. ed. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2010.

| Top | Major Themes

1. Love - usually of a mourning man for his deceased beloved.
2. Pride - physical and intellectual.
3. Beauty - of a young woman either dying or dead.
4. Death - a source of horror.

Influence of Poe

1. Influenced writers of split personality.
2. Influenced literary criticism.
3. Influenced writers dealing with the disintegration of personality.

Poe's Four Types of Short Stories

1. Arabesque - strange; use of the supernatural; symbolic fantasies of the human condition; (Example - "The Fall of the House of Usher").
2. Grotesque - heightening of one aspect of a character (Example - "The Man Who Was Used Up").
3. Ratiocinative - detective fiction (Example "The Purloined Letter").
4. Descriptive (Example - "The Landscape Garden").

Poe's Aesthetic Theory of Effect

1. "Unity of effect or impression" is of primary importance; the most effective story is one that can be read at a single sitting.

2. The short story writer should deliberately subordinate everything in the story - characters, incidents, style, and tone - to bringing out of a single, preconceived effect.

3. The prose tale may be made a vehicle for a great variety of these effects than even the short poem.

Poe's main concern focused upon matters of design, proportion and composition; his use of effect meant the impact which a short work would make upon a reader. In reviewing Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales, he pointed out the writer's obligation and reward: "If his very initial sentence tend not to be the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction."

Paradoxes in Poe

1. His life - basically insecure and highly emotional, but his writing is structured.
2. He reflects the paradoxical time - there was the apocalyptic sense of doom combined with the romantic innocence of childhood.
3. Poe was a romantic writer, but he emphasized rationality.
4. He presents realistic details in gothic settings.
5. There is a paradox in Poe's critical thinking - he believed in individual creativity but advocated classical norms - the ideal length of a poem, suggested Poe, is 100 lines.

Selected Bibliography: Biographical 2000-Present

Fisher, Benjamin F. ed. Poe in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010.

Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2005.

Peeples, Scott. The Afterlife of Edgar Allen Poe. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004.

Perry, Dennis R. Hitchcock and Poe: The Legacy of Delight and Terror. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2003.

| Top |Selected Bibliography: Critical 2000-Present

Baker, Dorothy Z. America's Gothic Fiction: The Legacy of Magnalia Christi Americana. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2007.

Clack, Randall A. The Marriage of Heaven and Earth: Alchemical Regeneration in the Works of Taylor, Poe, Hawthorne, and Fuller. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.

Freedman, William. The Porous Sanctuary: Art and Anxiety in Poe's Short Fiction. NY: Peter Lang, 2002.

Hutchisson, James M. Poe. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2005.

Inge, Thomas M. and Christopher P. Semtner. The Incredible Mr Poe: Comic Book Adaptations of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe 1943-2007. Richmond, VA: Poe Museum, 2008.

Jackson, Christine A. The Tell-Tale Art: Poe in Modern Popular Culture. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.

Levine, Stuart and Susan. eds. Edgar Allan Poe: Eureka. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2004.

Mills, Bruce. Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts: Transition States in the American Renaissance. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2006.

Mücke, Dorothea E. von. The Seduction of the Occult and the Rise of the Fantastic Tale. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003.

Perry, Dennis R. Hitchcock and Poe: The Legacy of Delight and Terror. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2003.

Quinn, Alice. ed. Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006.

Renza, Louis A. Edgar Allan Poe, Wallace Stevens, and the Poetics of American Privacy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2002.

Sova, Dawn B. Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. NY: Facts on File, 2007.

Stashower, Daniel. The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder. NY: Dutton, 2006.

Tschachler, Heinz. The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013.

Willis, Martin. Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century. Kent: Kent State UP, 2006.

Zarei, Rouhollah. Edgar Allan Poe: An Archetypal Reading. Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2013.


| Top | Researcher Says Rabies, Not Alcoholism, May Have Killed Poe

Reporter: Christopher Shea, Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 1996

Edgar Allan Poe's is among the most spectacular of literary deaths: He was discovered lying outside a pub in Baltimore, trembling and raving. He died three days later in a nearby hospital. Because Poe had been an alcoholic, his death has usually been attributed to withdrawal from drink. Now a researcher at the University of Maryland Medical Center says it is likely that he was killed by rabies.

Poe slipped into a coma soon after he was admitted to the hospital. He snapped out of it two days later and spoke lucidly to visitors. Then he quickly spiraled downward: Delirium overtook him and he fought with doctors until he had to be restrained.

The fitful course of his condition does not match the progression of alcoholism, according to R. Michael Benitez, an assistant professor of medicine at the medical center. Poe's family also swore that he had been abstinent for half a year.

A patient with rabies suffers from bouts of confusion as well as wild swings in his pulse rate, which Poe's doctor documented.

Hydrophobia is another symptom of rabies, and Poe reportedly could barely swallow the water that was given to him. Poe was a cat lover, and it is possible that one of his pets bit him. "I would say that the conclusion that he did not die from alcohol is very solid," Dr. Benitez says. "All the facts of the case fit the possible diagnosis of rabies, but we will never know for sure." He analyzed the Poe case without knowing who the patient was, as part of a weekly workshop in pathology at the medical center. His findings were published in the September issue of Maryland Medical Journal.

Study Questions

1. Summarize Poe's theory of aesthetics as he expresses it in "The Philosophy of Composition" and discuss his application of that philosophy in "The Raven."

2. Explicate a short lyric (The Lake, Preface, or To Helen) and discuss Poe's creation of the persona of the poet.

3. Discuss The Sleeper, The Raven, Annabel Lee, and Ligeia in light of Poe's statement, in "The Philosophy of Composition," that "the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world&emdash;and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover."

4. Explain what Poe means by his attempt to achieve "unity of effect," and trace the particular ways he manages this in "Fall of the House of Usher," "The Man of the Crowd," or "The Black Cat."

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 3: Early Nineteenth Century - Edgar Allan Poe." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: (provide page date or date of your login). 

| Top |