Symbolism in poe's works : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I have a 15 page report due on tuesday, oct. 15. Can Anyone tell me where to find good information on the symbolism in all of poe's works? Thanks

-- Anonymous, October 11, 2002


Dear Mr Nickell, I just find your request today, but even at some earlier moment, I believe you have too short a time to catch the whole nucleus of this important question. Some authors have brightly treated your subject, i. a. Patrick F. Quinn ("The French Face of E. A. Poe" - 1954, many reprints); L. Seylaz ("Poe et les Premiers Symbolistes Français" - 1923, sometimes reprinted, and perhaps translated); T. S. Eliot ("From Poe to Valéry" - ?1949, often reprinted)&c... but, their availability...?! Surely in many libraries... but, for you, just now...?! Try "Google" with their names, as well as, simply, Poe - Symbolism - Symbolists. And here precisely lies the rub for your research. You seem convinced that Poe is a "Symbolist", but what is "Symbolism"? The so-called French aesthetical School? This is largely post Poe's era... The French Symbolists, acknowledgedly, found many powerful art-principles in Poe's literary theories and applications. But is Poe a Symbolist, as the French writers and painters conceived the doctrine? Would Poe have agreed with their dogmas? and, if so, to what extend? Poe was always at war against all forms of allegory because, according to his opinion, allegories walk always in the field of the didacticism and the mere prosaïcism, thus strongly opposed to Poesy and Ideal Beauty (in poems and prose- fiction). When a second meaning is intended to be introduced, Poe always expressed the intense desire of keeping it out of sight, as an "under-current". But it is just a concession to the "genre"! He did accept the real richness of such an import, but he never eriged the fact as an aesthetical Ideal. He militated for suggestive art, independantly of the "second" meaning, because his deep and real creed was precisely that any work of art must offer matter of MANIFOLD significations (not a second one only), significations that each reader MAY find with his OWN sense and judgment, from all the clues the artist has left to his public. Most of Poe's critics like to propose their own interpretation(s) of Poe's texts, totally forgetting that Poe's miracle lies precisely, thanks to the vagueness of expression, the rigor of construction and the perfect unity of composition, in the possibility, for any of us, to seize all that we can feel and understand according to our own psychal, cultural, emotional and intellectual references and experiences. Take the antepenultimate paragraph of Poe's "Philosophy of Composition", and you will see, in his own words, what our genial poet had really to do with allegory, emblem, second-meaning, symbol and the like. You will catch other hints of it in his reviews of Fouqué's "Undine" and Hawthorne's "Mosses from an Old Manse" (both available at A hard task... Keep care not to confuse "allegory" and "symbol"! No time for more, alas! Good luck! Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium), just about to fly off towards some other home-shelter.

-- Anonymous, October 14, 2002

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