1. 1. Edgar Allan Poe (I) (2014)Apunte Inglés
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1. 1. EDGAR ALLAN POE (I)
Edgar Allan Poe (Boston, 1809 – Baltimore, 1849) belonged to the Poesque atmosphere. A good
example would be his poem ‘The Raven’, where there is a talking Raven that says ‘Nevermore’. The
poetic voice is obsessed about the loss of his beloved, Lenore, so he believes he hears this word. The
Simpsons did a parody of it in an episode.
What was the effect that ‘The Raven’ created? It has mystery: a man is napping (poet’s stations of reverie, half asleep and half awoken, it’s a moment of transition), lights are low, there’s musicality, and the kind of versification that he uses has a very characteristic rhythm.
In ‘The Black Cat’, guilt is an important element. For no reason, the character kills an old man, and nobody knows about the remains of the victim, but he senses that the old man’s heart is still beating under the floor because he feels terribly guilty.
At this time, in the 1830-50s there had been a few expeditions to the Poles, with the sinking of several ships with people trying to survive. Poe wrote about the topic. He was quite infatuated by these expeditions. The magazines were important at the time. The Spanish Carlist War also had an influence in America because of them.
The poem ‘Annabel Lee’ is another example for the loss of a beloved person. Poe’s poetry has a lot of similarities and parallelisms with his short stories.
In another story, there’s a case that has to be solved by the detective and the police. Finally, using rational methods, but also his intuition and imagination, the detective ends up solving the case. It’s something that is really commonsense, but they just weren’t seeing it; it’s like when you’re searching something and you have it in the most common place, in front of you, but you’re thinking so much that you don’t see it.
Edgar Allan Poe often read his stories and was paid for it, but we don’t know exactly how he did it. He also wrote a lot of reviews for a living because he read a lot. He wrote about a lot of things that happened around the world.
On pages 41-42 of the dossier, Poe writes about the difference between poems and short stories. For him, brevity is the whole mark of a good poem and also a good short story (as a limit, he establishes two hours). A long poem is a contradiction in terms: it has to be short, because if it’s too long you cannot sustain the effect that you’d like to cause (‘Thus a long poem is a paradox’). ‘Poetic Sentiment’, ‘unity of effect’ and ‘totality’ are keywords for him. The author has to work first on the effect: the setting, the characters, etc., will come later. The first two or three sentences of paragraphs are a clue to convince the reader: perhaps they will include the main idea to intrigue the reader.
The main goal of the poet is reaching beauty, but the short story writer’s one is reaching truth. In fact, the famous line of British romantic poetry is ‘Truth is beauty, beauty is truth’. He doesn’t aim at historical realism, but the important thing is to get the reader into the story’s universe and make it believable for him.
1 A constant trademark on Poe’s short stories is the fact that the characters are constantly imagining and sensing an amount of things. Poe is a very romantic writer, influenced by the American Renaissance, as well as Melville, Hawthorne, Stowe and maybe Whitman did. They were writers from the 1840s and 1850s. However, to have a reference, you need an essence: they were inspired by Cooper, Irving and Brown, from the 1790s-1820s. At this time, American literature was still trying to get a literature on its own: America was an independent country, but the literature continued to be highly influenced by the British one. The Romanticism came later in America than in Europe, so Poe was half a brother of the 18 th century and half a brother of the 19th century.
Poe is like an engineer or architect: he tells you how to write. However, at the same time he is very imaginative and unique, so it’s hard to catalogue him. There are theories than say that when you’re a child you’re unique, but when you grow up you lose it. The feelings of a child are remarkable to remember because of its singularity and they could easily be a good resource for writings and poems.
Rhythm is an important characteristic for writing too. ‘Ratiocination’ refers to when everything is composed according to a plan. Poe talks about the ‘grotesque’ and the ‘arabesque’ (one of his works was called Tales of the grotesque).
‘Grotesque’ means obscure (his etymology includes the word ‘grotto’, cave): things don’t always seem what they are. Moreover, his characters usually have mental disorders and the narrator doesn’t know everything that happens, so it makes the story more mysterious and enigmatic. The recurrent loss also has to do with the term.
In places like Granada’s Alhambra there are a lot of geometric decorations. Poe really liked the ‘arabesque’ word: it means that things come and go. Like the Alhambra’s decoration, there’s organization between the organizations, it may seem chaotic but it’s all really studied and well-thought.
There’s literary nationalism in the page 42: he talks about Americans and American literature. Then, he describes Hawthorne’s tales.
In the ‘Philosophy of Composition’, he says that everything is composed according to a plan. Therefore, he’s not a complete romantic; he believes in something more than just intuition and emotions. He’s a professional writer. There has to be a ‘unity of the effect’: you have to get yourself into the text, without any distractions, to receive the entire effect of the reading.
According to Poe, here should be a pivot, refrain or turning point. For example, in ‘The Raven’, it is the word ‘Nevermore’. He sometimes even came off with words of his own, like in his poem ‘Ulalume’.
Finally, he talks about which the most melancholic feeling is. If it is death, then attaching death to a beautiful woman, we’ll create the most melancholic beauty. It will also become more intense if the poetic voice is his beloved one. We can find it in the poems about Ligeia and Berenice.
It is not enough to create characters; you have to attain to some effects. He criticizes Hawthorne’s allegories (he came from a religious family, and the Bible has a lot of them) because Poe isn’t very fond of them: they sometimes get in the middle of the writer’s effect and can ruin the story’s atmosphere.
2 Poe thought that he and Hawthorne where not really appreciated publicly in their time. He was obsessed with writing, he never had enough of it, when he died he was not completely satisfied.
In ‘Eureka’, he also theorizes about the role of the writer and literature. For the people who believe in God, everything works into a plan. Poe believed that and used it making his own universe when he was writing. For him, everything has to make sense according to the unity of the plot. Despite of all, perfection doesn’t exist for the writer because he’s a man: the only perfect plot is the plot of God.
On the ‘Pragmatics’ of the short story he talks about the writer’s business. He tried to write here and there to make enough money, mostly in magazines. He was trying to find a magazine or editor that wanted to deal with him. He also wanted an expanding audience: America’s territory was getting larger and he wanted his writings to reach all zones too. He even wrote an article called ‘The philosophy of furniture’, where he talks about the perfect room, like if it was feng-shui. It is indeed related with the organization he said it had to be in stories and poems.
For further information and key facts, look at the documents in the Aula Global.