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The Philosophy of Composition

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❶No childhood home of Poe is still standing, including the Allan family's Moldavia estate. Although much of his early criticism is routine review work, he began in his reviews to consider the basic nature of poetry and short fiction and to develop theoretical analyses of these two genres, drawing upon both the German criticism of A.


Edgar Allan Poe’s seven tips for writing stories and poems
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Edgar Allan Poe American Literature Analysis

Because the narrator who tells the story is a man obsessed, those things that obsess him are repeated throughout the story. In order to understand why the narrator might wish to destroy himself by destroying the old man—which he does succeed in doing by the end of the story—one can turn back to the motifs of time and the tell-tale heart, which also dominate the story. Finally, there is the theme of the tell-tale heart itself—a heart that tells a tale. On the psychological level of the story, however, the tale that the heart tells that so obsesses the narrator is the tale that every heart tells.

That tale links the beating of the heart to the ticking of a clock, for every beat is a moment of time that brings one closer to death. The madness of the narrator in this story is similar to the madness of other Poe characters who long to escape the curse of time and mortality but find they can do so only by a corresponding loss of the self—a goal they both seek with eagerness and try to avoid with terror.

The plot is relatively simple. Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato for some unspecified insult by luring him down into his family vaults to inspect some wine he has purchased. In fact, from the very beginning, every action and bit of dialogue is characterized as being just the opposite of what is explicitly stated.

The action takes place during carnival season, a sort of Mardi Gras when everyone is in masquerade and thus appearing as something they are not. Montresor makes sure that his servants will not be at home to hinder his plot by giving them explicit orders not to leave, and he makes sure that Fortunato will follow him into the wine cellar by playing on his pride and by urging him not to go.

Moreover, the fact that Montresor knows how his plot is going to end makes it possible for him to play little ironic tricks on Fortunato.

When Fortunato makes a gesture indicating that he is a member of the secret society of Masons, Montresor claims that he is also and proves it by revealing a trowel, the sign of his plot to wall up Fortunato. The irony of the story cuts much deeper than this, however.

At the beginning, Montresor makes much of the fact that there are two criteria for a successful revenge—that the avenger must punish without being punished in return and that he must make himself known as an avenger to the one who has done him the wrong. Nowhere in the story, however, does Montresor tell Fortunato that he is walling him up to fulfill his need for revenge; in fact, Fortunato seems to have no idea why he is being punished at all. The ultimate irony of the story then, is that, although Montresor has tried to fulfill his two criteria for a successful revenge, Fortunato has fulfilled them better than he has.

Moreover, although Montresor now tells the story as a final confession to save his soul, the gleeful tone with which he tells it—a tone that suggests he is enjoying the telling of it in the present as much as he enjoyed committing the act in the past—means that it is not a good confession. Every detail in the story contributes to this central effect, and it is the overall design of the story that communicates its meaning—not some simple moral embedded within it or tacked on to the end.

Poe, who told one friend that he thought the poem was the greatest poem ever written, was delighted one night at the theater when an actor interpolated the word into his speech, and almost everyone in the audience seemed to recognize the allusion. Whether or not that description is an accurate account of how the work was composed, it is surely a description of how Poe wished the poem to be read.

Thus, Poe himself was the first, and is perhaps still the best, critic and interpreter of his own poem. The plot is a simple one: A young student is reading one stormy night in his chamber, half-dreaming about his beloved deceased mistress. When this self-torture reaches its most extreme level, Poe says, the poem then naturally ends. Although the poem is often dismissed as a cold-blooded contrivance, it is actually a carefully designed embodiment of the human need to torture the self and to find meaning in meaninglessness.

He also claims that the violent emotion suggested by the references to Mount Yaanek and the Boreal Pole in the second stanza are not adequately accounted for or motivated.

Finally, Winters argues that the subject of grief in the poem is used as a general excuse for obscure and only vaguely related emotion. The narrator roams here with Psyche, his Soul, with whom he carries on an interior dialogue. When the narrator and his Soul see the planet Venus, the goddess of love, the narrator is enthusiastic about her, but the Soul says she distrusts the star and wishes to flee. The narrator pacifies Psyche and soothes her, however, and they travel on until stopped by the door of a tomb.

Thus, although what is most obvious about the poem is its dark music, its theme of the transitory nature of physical beauty is what makes it a typical Poe poem. From the beginning of his career as a poet, short-story writer, and critic and reviewer, Poe was developing a body of critical doctrine about the nature of literature.

Basically, the doctrine assumes that, whereas the lowest forms of literary art are realistic works and works created to illustrate a didactic moral lesson, the highest form of literary art is the aesthetic creation of beauty.

The first consideration in the writing of the poem, Poe asserts, was the issue of the length and scope of the work. Poe always argued that a long poem was a contradiction in terms—a long poem is actually a succession of brief ones. He returned briefly to Richmond in and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia.

For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, , he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of "acute congestion of the brain. Poe's work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction.

Many anthologies credit him as the "architect" of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of style and structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the "art for art's sake" movement.

Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature. A Prose Poem Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes. Second Edition New York: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, 2 volumes Philadelphia: The Prose Romances of Edgar A.

A Prose Poem New York: Harrison, 17 volumes New York: University of Illinois Press, University Press of Virginia, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Pollin, 5 volumes to date Boston: Library of America, Gerald Kennedy New York: Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, ; republished with three supplements New York: Gordian, ; fourth supplement, American Literature, 45 January Robertson, Bibliography of the Writings of Edgar A. Poe and Commentary on the Bibliography of Edgar A.

Columbia University Press, , pp. Heartman and James R. Haldeen Braddy, Glorious Incense: Hubbell, "Poe," in Eight American Authors: Modern Language Association, , pp. Norton, , pp. Hyneman, Edgar Allan Poe: Dameron and Irby B. A Bibliography of Criticism Charlottesville: Pollin, "Poe 'Viewed and Reviewed': Twayne, , pp. New York University Press, , pp. Redfield, , III: Ingram, Edgar Allan Poe: His Life, Letters and Opinions, 2 volumes London: A Study in Genius New York: A Critical Biography London: A Critical Biography New York: Perry Miller, The Raven and the Whale: Frances Winwar, The Haunted Palace: Edward Wagenknecht, Edgar Allan Poe: Moss, Poe's Literary Battles: Duke University Press, John Evangelist Walsh, Poe the Detective: Rutgers University Press, Moss, Poe's Major Crisis: Louisiana State University Press, Wolf Mankowitz, The Extraordinary Mr.

Thomas, "Poe in Philadelphia, A Documentary Record," dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, John Carl Miller, ed. David Ketterer, Edgar Allan Poe: University of Virginia Press, Kenneth Silverman, Edgar A. Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance New York: Jeffrey Meyers, Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy New York: University of Iowa, Anderson, Poe in Northlight: Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire on Poe: Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, sa vie et ses ouvrages, edited by W. University of Toronto Press, A Symposium Hartford, Conn.: Booth and Claude E.


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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christopher Walken, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee H.P. Lovecraft Gives Five Tips for Writing a Horror Story, or Any Piece of “Weird Fiction” Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC.

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On January 19 thousands will celebrate what would have been Edgar Allan Poe’s th birthday. s Tales and the ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ contain the crux of Poe’s theory there is more to learn from Poe about successful short story writing from his Marginalia entries.

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Watch video · Find out more about American writer, critic, and editor Edgar Allan Poe, whose famous works include "The Fall of the House . Edgar Allan Poe’s seven tips for writing stories and poems February 09, by Faena Aleph. Posted in: Vital Counsels.

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A virtuoso of suspense and horror, Edgar Allan Poe is known for his Gothic writing style. His style is created through his use of punctuation, sentence structure, word choice, tone, and figurative language. The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe: With Notices of his Life and Genius, edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, 4 volumes (New York: Redfield, Secret Writing from Edgar Poe to the Internet (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ). Rosenheim and Stephen Rachman, eds.