Poe’s Work is overshadowed by the deaths of three women whom he dearly loved:
- His mother (Poe was just 2)
- Jane Stanard (a school friend’s mother—in Poe’s mind she represented the perfect mother). She died while insane at age 28.
- Frances Allen—his foster mother
Problems with Alcohol
- Enzyme deficiency in his liver that made even small amounts of alcohol highly intoxicating to him
Poe’s Ideas about Literature
- “The death of a beautiful woman is the most poetic topic in the world”
- The “single effect”
The Singular or Single effect
According to Poe, a good short story achieved its unity by achieving a single emotional effect on the reader. He writes of it in his review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales and describes it as “a certain unique single effect to be wrought out.
Poe and the Gothic
What is Gothic?
Literature that thrills readers with tales of murder, mystery, and the supernatural (or the apparent supernatural which may be explained away in the story’s denouement).
Denouement means “untying the knot”; refers to the resolution of the story.
Gothic Literature Often:
- Relies on settings involving castles, monasteries, secret chambers.
Poe’s Goals for Writing
- Wanted to elevate American Literature
Poe on Poetry
- Should inspire a mood
- Realistic details unimportant
- Should be concerned with notions of beauty
Poe on “The Raven”
- Pg 729—Says he composed the 3rd to last stanza first
- Pg 730 Poe describes the effect he hoped to create
- Pg Poe summarizes his own Poem 731
Poe and Point of View
- What makes the Tell-Tale Heart work?
- What happens if the story were told from one officer’s view point?
- He is able to show the psychological implications of his narrator’s actions in a way that no other view point would allow.
Types of point of view:
- First person point of view—narrator is either a participant or an observer
- Third person omniscient—all knowing narrator can see into all the characters’ minds
- Third person selective omniscience
- Third person objective
The following slides are images…
- …for the Fall of the House of Usher. A few are from a stage adaptation.
- The previous slide is a painting by Fuseli called The Nightmare.