Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
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  • 1. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
  • 2. Melodramatic LifeMelodramatic LifeDetermining the facts of Poe’s life hasDetermining the facts of Poe’s life hasproved difficult, as lurid legend becameproved difficult, as lurid legend becameentwined with fact even before he died.entwined with fact even before he died.Some of these legends were spread bySome of these legends were spread byPoe himself.Poe himself.Two days after Poe’s death, his literaryTwo days after Poe’s death, his literaryexecutor began a smear campaign,executor began a smear campaign,rewriting Poe’s correspondence so asrewriting Poe’s correspondence so asto alienate many of his friends.to alienate many of his friends.
  • 3. Early LifeEarly LifePoe was born in Boston on January 19,Poe was born in Boston on January 19,1809, his parents’ second child.1809, his parents’ second child.His father deserted the family a yearHis father deserted the family a yearlater.later.In December 1811, his mother died atIn December 1811, his mother died attwenty-four, and her husbandtwenty-four, and her husbanddisappeared completely.disappeared completely.Poe was taken in by John Allan, aPoe was taken in by John Allan, asuccessful and stable Richmondsuccessful and stable Richmondmerchant.merchant.
  • 4. College and West PointCollege and West PointPoe spent most of 1826 at thePoe spent most of 1826 at theUniversity of West Virginia, doing well inUniversity of West Virginia, doing well inhis studies, but running up gamblinghis studies, but running up gamblingdebts and drinking.debts and drinking.He was admitted at West Point in 1830,He was admitted at West Point in 1830,but got himself expelled by missingbut got himself expelled by missingclasses and roll calls.classes and roll calls.By 1831, Poe had already publishedBy 1831, Poe had already publishedthree versions of his early poetry.three versions of his early poetry.
  • 5. Poe’s DeathPoe’s DeathDuring the last two years of his life, PoeDuring the last two years of his life, Poewas seriously ill--perhaps with a brainwas seriously ill--perhaps with a brainlesion--and drinking steadily.lesion--and drinking steadily.On Election Day, October 3, 1949, heOn Election Day, October 3, 1949, hewas found senseless near a pollingwas found senseless near a pollingplace.place.Taken to a hospital, he died on OctoberTaken to a hospital, he died on October7, “of congestion of the brain.”7, “of congestion of the brain.”A recent theory is that he died of rabies.A recent theory is that he died of rabies.
  • 6. Poe worked in a variety ofPoe worked in a variety ofgenres (1827-1849)genres (1827-1849)Criticism--he gained a national reputation as aCriticism--he gained a national reputation as avirulently sarcastic critic, a literary hatchetman. Thevirulently sarcastic critic, a literary hatchetman. Thebulk of his writing consists of his criticism, and hisbulk of his writing consists of his criticism, and hismost abiding ambition was to become a powerfulmost abiding ambition was to become a powerfulcritic.critic.Poetry--He was an experimental poet.Poetry--He was an experimental poet.Psychological fiction--He wanted to produce thePsychological fiction--He wanted to produce thegreatest possible horrific effects on the reader.greatest possible horrific effects on the reader.Detective Story--Poe created this form when he wasDetective Story--Poe created this form when he was32, will all its major conventions complete.32, will all its major conventions complete.
  • 7. Characteristics of Poe’sCharacteristics of Poe’sdetective storiesdetective storiesPoe places veiled clues before thePoe places veiled clues before thereader.reader.The writer/narrator strives to appearThe writer/narrator strives to appearobjective.objective.– Poe would have liked to solve everythingPoe would have liked to solve everythingby the mind.by the mind.– He was disturbed by what he could notHe was disturbed by what he could notsolve by reason.solve by reason.The climax of the story is the narrator’sThe climax of the story is the narrator’sexplanation of the crime.explanation of the crime.
  • 8. Poe and the GothicPoe and the GothicPoe did not want to write gothic stories;Poe did not want to write gothic stories;he started his career spoofing thehe started his career spoofing theGothic.Gothic.He said that he wrote, “Tales of terror,He said that he wrote, “Tales of terror,not of Germany, but of the soul.”not of Germany, but of the soul.”He transformed tales of terror intoHe transformed tales of terror intopsychological stories; he delved into thepsychological stories; he delved into themysterious recesses of the humanmysterious recesses of the humanmind.mind.
  • 9. Elements of Gothic in Poe’sElements of Gothic in Poe’sFictionFictionGrim settingGrim setting– Landscapes are often reflections ofLandscapes are often reflections ofcharacter’s mind.character’s mind.– Unusual buildings, extremes of nature,Unusual buildings, extremes of nature,eccentric works of arteccentric works of art– Very few of his stories take place inVery few of his stories take place inAmerica; most take place in Europe orAmerica; most take place in Europe orNever-never-land.Never-never-land.
  • 10. Other elements of the GothicOther elements of the GothicHidden evilHidden evil– Unspeakable, mysterious crimes, including incestUnspeakable, mysterious crimes, including incestand parracideand parracideObsession with DeathObsession with Death– Ghosts, blood, body partsGhosts, blood, body partsManiacal LaughterManiacal LaughterThe discovered manuscriptThe discovered manuscript– gives responsibility to someone elsegives responsibility to someone elseDeformityDeformity– the groteque--people who don’t look right arethe groteque--people who don’t look right arecapable of activity beyond the normcapable of activity beyond the norm
  • 11. An element of Poe’s styleAn element of Poe’s stylePoe uses vocabulary to create setting,Poe uses vocabulary to create setting,for rhetorical effect, rather than forfor rhetorical effect, rather than forinformation.information.Modern horror films use music to createModern horror films use music to createatmosphere; Poe used vocabulary.atmosphere; Poe used vocabulary.
  • 12. Hawthorne/PoeHawthorne/PoeHawthorneHawthornedescribed thedescribed theconflict between theconflict between theintellect and heart.intellect and heart.Poe described thePoe described theconflict between twoconflict between twosides of the intellect.sides of the intellect.