Edgar Allan Poe

3 March 2017

Allan Poe’s Place in the Literary Canon Notwithstanding his contributions as a literary critic and the originator of the short story, Edgar Allan Poe was considered one of the greatest writers of the American Romantic Period because of the significant contributions to the genres of mystery and the modern detective story. Many scholars of literature ceaselessly search for authors, writers, and literary pieces appropriating a high regard for this art form of the elite. Reasons for this are for study, for pleasure, and even as a model for other, more modern works.

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Edgar Allan Poe is most, if not all, of what litterateurs are looking for in an author and so he certainly deserves his place in today’s literary canon. If serious writers consider Poe a gold standard in literature, then there is absolutely no reason that college students should think otherwise. Edgar Allan Poe should be included in today’s literary canon because he is a pioneer in literary genre; his critiques are the basis for the development of many literary theories, and because of his significant contributions to the literary corpus.

As a pioneer in literary genre, Poe initiated the evolution of the short story and also the modern detective story. He remains today one of the most popular mystery writers in history, and his contributions to literature and the mystery genre cannot be underestimated. Prior to Edgar Allan Poe, most literature patrons looked down on the dark and gothic prose, in particular, those belonging to the horror and the mystery genre, because of the moods and morals that these evoked.

With the emergence of Poe as a mystery and horror fictionist, the genre began to enjoy attention unprecedented in the years prior. Poe was able to give to horror and mystery what Shakespeare gave to poetry and to theater. “Many pieces of literature that deal with death and the gloominess of the world do not always appeal to audiences. However, Poe’s contribution to literature has proven to be loved and appreciated by many over the span of time. ” (Rosello) This could be attributed to the techniques used by Poe in both his prose and his literature that stood firm even through the closest scrutiny.

Therefore, despite the dark subjects tackled in his pieces, his work remained faithful to the time-respected standards of literature. In addition, Poe is viewed as one of the most important of American authors in the Gothic tradition. While there were many other writers who wrote in this tradition, Poe was able to take the genre and remove from it the sloppiness and inconsistencies found in many Gothic pieces of his time. Poe had raised the bar for this kind of literature by imbuing it with elegance and painful attention to detail and emotions.

His desire to use his pieces to convey emotions had even gone into a more personal level as these “reflect the mood and genre he desired to create in his literature conveyed his own character. ” (Rosello) This meant that Poe’s gothic pieces were a reflection of his true self and hence, were very honest to the most intimate level, which was often uncomfortable for many writers of the time because most strove to write literature that was as distant to their true selves as possible, or risk having their darkest secrets revealed in their work. Poe’s writing exemplifies his brilliant imagination through metaphors that describe his life. ” (CaryaAcademy) A few examples of Poe’s work that reflected his own personal darkness are “The Cask of Amontillado”, which very accurately conveys they thinking process of the author, “Ligeia”, which mirrors the grief and sorrow of loss which also parallels the experiences of the author, and the popular “The Raven”, which, apart from being a highly critical piece in Poe’s career, also echoed the author’s personal struggles with isolation and intangible fears.

Apart from being personal, Poe also allowed his investigative and analytical skills to shape his literature, such as in his mystery pieces to include the “Rue Morgue” series of tales. Poe, therefore, based on what he had began and pioneered, he cannot be relegated to any ordinary writer of his time or ours because his work established standards and bars for other future writers, fictionists, and poets. Other than being a pioneer in the world of literature, Poe was also a critic of literary works and his literary criticism formed the basis for the development of literary standard and theory.

Poe himself said that it is absolutely not true that a poet or fictionist cannot critique his own work. (Poe) He expounded on this by saying that even with the personal bias in a poet or a fictionist, critique of one’s own work is possible because “bad poets can only make bad critiques and good poets” will only critique “on account of his intimate acquaintance with the subject”. (Poe) Here, Poe established the theory in literary criticism which is known as self-criticism by debunking earlier assumptions that this is not possible.

Poe further expresses his faith in the poet or fictionist by defending self-criticism because he knows that the objective of good poets and fictionists is not to propel oneself but to propel the field of literature, and this can never be done if one was to be overly zealous of his/her work to the extent of ignoring conventions and standards. Poe made himself known not only as an exceptional author of poetry and fiction, but also as a literary critic whose level of imagination and insight had until then been un-approached in American literature.

Poe’s most prominent contribution to literature derives from the analytical method he practiced both as a creative author and as a critic of the works of his generation. He even boldly critiqued the work of classic poets like Longfellow as he said that this poet was, “He was to blame in wearing away his youth in contemplation with the end of poeticizing in his manhood… His judgment consequently is too correct. ” (Poe) In effect, what Poe was trying to say was that a poet would do best if he/she was to write faithfully about his own truths instead of writing about the truths that are not yet supported by experience.

Hence, Poe established the necessity of a poet’s connection to his/her work and also, by saying that poetry should not be “too correct”, contributed to the convention in contemporary poetry which states that the non-problematic self belongs in classic literature and the problematic self has to be a quality of contemporary literature. Poe also recognized talent over seniority and dared to comment on the works of great writers like Coleridge and even Milton. While some would not dare point out the mistakes and shortfalls of literary masters, Poe did so with careful analysis and abundant facts and examples.

Poe encouraged young and emerging writers to become bolder and more definitive of their art; not to be intimidated and even influenced by the work of senior poets and fictionists who themselves, have been known to commit mortal flaws in their work. For Poe, it was not a sin to commit a mistake in literature because literature itself with the aid of the poet or the fictionist is self-healing, for as long as the creator is sincerely dedicated to his/her creation. Finally, apart from his pioneering contributions and his critical innovations, Poe had contributed greatly to the literary corpus through the sterling pieces that he created.

If not for any other reason, Poe should be studied because there is so much of his to study. Poe is a major figure in world literature based on his highly acclaimed short stories, poems, and critical theories; because of this “Poe’s tales of horror and suspense continue to influence writers today, and many of them now make their living by writing exclusively in those genres that Poe helped to define. ” (Cornell University) In his lifetime, Poe was able to publish more than four hundred poems, stories, essays, and literary critiques, all of excellent quality, faithful to conventions, and pioneering in their respective genres.

The body of work that Poe is known for rivals other classical writers who have, in their own right, influenced the evolution of English literature. “The literary output of Poe bears the stamp of an original genius…his tales are remarkable for their originality and ingenuity of construction, and in the best of them he rises to a high level of imagination. ” (Adelaide University) Therefore the body of literature would never be the same again since Poe became one of its most important figures. Often works of literature, especially of horror and mystery, are put side by side with the works of Poe to ascertain their merit and integrity.

The amount of work that Poe had contributed to the world of literature is enough to spark a culture all its own, hence, the emergence of the gothic genre and its propagation among young writers of today. If not for anything else, Edgar Allan Poe was a literary genius not only of his time but even of the present generation. His work should be studied by students in college literature classes so that they can fully understand and grasp his philosophical and artistic transaction which accounts for his importance in literary history.

Despite some scholars arguing, on the contrary, because Poe propagates bleak and dark values one who understands the reasons behind his literary masterpieces would appreciate why Poe spent so much time in trying to verbalize the grotesque, the horrible, and the mysterious in his work – Poe was merely trying to mimic true human nature in his work. Therefore, however one views it, Poe is a mandatory requirement for any literature student or any student for that matter because of his pioneering literary attempts, his bold literary critiques, and his significant contributions to the growth and the body of English literature, in general.

References:

https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/poe/edgar_allan/

http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/poe/exhibition/nevermore/

 

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