Poe and the cisis of man

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I need (urgently) some starting point to link Poe with the theme of the crisis of man and the alienatin from society, in particular from traditional bourgeois conventions and values.

-- Anonymous, June 07, 2001


For his initial self awareness of alienation or otherness the youthful poem "Alone". Be careful of the Gothic stories. Those pulp heros may reveal some Poe personal traits, but they are grossly exagerrated. "Usher" and the most deconstructively maniacal "Hop-Frog". "Man of the Crowd" is an interesting take on the levels of urban society.

Read his essays to get his point of attacking mediocrity and socially accepted didacticism in poetry. His savage passion for the pursuit of art and quality. He did not spare his readers the most difficult eruditon or difficult, intuitive or deductive theory. Even the simplicity of challenging the readership with difficult ciphers. he was very respectful of the ladies, though blatantly idealistically passionate(disappointing the lustful groupies and scaring off the would be poets). Attacking Longfellow I believe was his attack of the most successful albeit also talented, summit of mediocrity. Poe in his short lyrics pushed the envelope of passion and the metaphysical. he dared combine progressive science and logic with the wild world of vision and mystery. The mysteries(Rue Morgue,Purloined Letter, Gold Bug) in fact describe this "dual" Poe who triumphs by crossing borders between fact and fancy, reason and intuition, synthesizing man's world with the larger mystery.

On the other hand, Poe would very much liked to have had the means of the Southern gentleman, the fame and wages of a recognized literati, the modest domesticity of a cottage for his young wife, an intimate family circle which, as an orphan, he had a special need for. So he was a rebel by life's circumstance and his bitterness attests to one reaction to the situation. His despair and loss of loves and hope in the Other World at times was another. Usually, in his younger days at least, light, however small, promises Hope, and the mind can triumph over all mysteries and terrors- though narrowly(Pit and Pendulum). Please, resist the temptation to identify Poe with his Gothic extravaganzas alone.

The nature of poetry in redefining its goals and freeing it from conventions and making it truly soul searching and beyond the "normal" makes him at least a decadent romantic or precursor of the 20th century moderns. Poe's influence on symbolists, art for art's sake, the personal and intuitive dominating the form. etc. In his life one of the first "poetes damnes", poet of the tortured, haunted self, self-defeating, defeated and somewhat estranged from success and recognition in the "proper" circles.

-- Anonymous, June 07, 2001

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