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Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849. English 2 Mr. O’Connell Loyola High School. Introduction. Emerson: “To be great is to be misunderstood”: His ideas were in conflict with the spirit of his age Took refuge as a “lonely and misunderstood artist

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edgar allan poe 1809 1849

Edgar Allan Poe1809-1849

English 2

Mr. O’Connell

Loyola High School

  • Emerson: “To be great is to be misunderstood”:
    • His ideas were in conflict with the spirit of his age
    • Took refuge as a “lonely and misunderstood artist
  • His neurotic personality often mirrored that of his fictional characters
  • Born in Boston, January 19, 1809
  • Parents:
    • David Poe (deserted wife 18 months later)
    • Elizabeth Arnold Poe (died in 1811)
    • Became ward of the Mr. & Mrs. John Allan family (never legally adopted)
  • John Allan—rich tobacco exporter
  • Mrs. Allan—spoiled Edgar with the affections of a childless wife of an unfaithful father
  • Led to tensions and jealousies—estranged Poe from Mr. Allan
  • Received a genteel and thorough education in Virginia and abroad
  • Lived in England and Scotland (1815-20)
    • Attended a prestigious classical prep school
  • Attended the University of Virginia
    • Mr. Allan removed him b/c of gambling debts
  • Entered the Army as “Edgar A. Perry”
  • Entered West Point Academy in 1830
    • Felt out of place and grew sick of the Academy
    • Received a Dishonorable Discharge for neglecting his duties
love life
Love Life
  • Age 11: infatuated with Jane Stith Stanard, a classmate’s mother
    • Led to the poem “To Helen”
  • High School: considered himself engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster
    • She engaged another while Poe was at UVA
  • September 1835: Secretly married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm
  • 1849: Consented to marry Sarah Elmira Royster, his childhood sweetheart
early writings
Early Writings
  • 1827: Tamerlane and Other Poems
    • Signed “By a Bostonian”
  • 1829: Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems
  • 1831: Poems (New York)
  • 1831 to 1835: Lived as a hack writer in Baltimore
    • Lived in poverty and struggled
  • October 12, 1833: published “MS Found in a Bottle” and won a $50 prize
    • Heralded the success of his short story formula
writing career
Writing Career
  • Editor for Southern Literary Messenger (1835-1837; Richmond, VA)
    • Brilliant editor, attracted attention for his own critical articles
    • Personal instability; quarreled with staff
  • 1838-1844: Period of greatest accomplishment (Philadelphia)
    • Editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Graham’s Magazine, and The Saturday Museum
writing career8
Writing Career
  • Well-known in literary circles for critical articles
  • Published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840)
  • 1843: Earned fame (and $100) for “The Gold Bug” in Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper
  • Left Philadelphia and moved to New York and found sporadic employment
    • Again lived in grueling poverty
writing career9
Writing Career
  • In New York, Virginia sick with tuberculosis
  • Poe’s eccentricities increase; begins to drink
  • Candid reviews and critical articles gained him many enemies, who ruined his reputation
  • Despite this, in 1845 published “The Raven” in the Evening Mirror and in The Raven and Other Poems
  • 1846: Virginia died
  • 1848: Published Eureka, deemed a work of a demented mind, in which he attempted to unify the laws physical science with those of aesthetic reality
  • “His life ended, as it had been lived, in events so strange that he might have invented them” (Perkins et al, 529)
  • Consented to marry Sarah Elmira Royster
  • Left for Philadelphia on business
  • Six days later found unconscious on streets of Baltimore
  • Died in delirium four days later: Oct. 7, 1849
  • Obituary: Died of “congestion of the brain”
  • “During a short life of poverty, anxiety, and fantastic tragedy Poe achieved” the following:
    • establishment of a new symbolic poetry, which encompassed only 48 poems
    • the formalization of the new short story
    • the invention of the story of detection and the broadening of science fiction
    • the foundation of a new fiction of psychological analysis and symbolism
    • the development of an important critical theory and a discipline of analytical criticism
literary philosophy
Literary Philosophy
  • Emphasis on art that simultaneously appeals to REASON and EMOTION; both head and heart
    • Influenced the course of creative writing and criticism
  • Art = an object created in the cause of Beauty
    • Involves the utmost concentration and unity, with the most scrupulous use of words
  • Works directed toward universal human response
  • Like Hawthorne, Poe used symbolism
  • Unlike Hawthorne, Poe taught no moral lessons except the discipline of Beauty
  • Perkins, George, Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long, eds. The American Tradition in Literature. 6th ed. New York: Random House, 1985.