Seeking help to make an essay on Poe : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

Im really willing to write a short essay on Poes tales and Im looking for some criticism about them. Im trying to find the Marie Bonaparte book (is it available somewhere on the Web BTW?) and Ill read the compilations of essays by Harold Bloom and Kenneth Silverman. But Im not willing to discard anything and I would appreciate it inmensely if any of you guys could give me a hand.

Im reading the Baudelaire mini-biography of Poe and I would like to read other known biographies. If any of you has any recommendations please tell me.

-- Anonymous, September 06, 2003


OOiiiiyyyy, Bonaparte, Bloom and Silverman . . . three people who dislike Poe immensely. Please choose again. Stick with A. H. Quinn, whose 1941 biography is now out in paperback. There is a nice short biography of Poe in T. O. Mabbott's collection of Poe's poems, also out in paperback. Seek also The Poe Log (by Jackson and Thomas), another fine book on Poe available in paperback. But stay away from Bonaparte, who was consumed by Freudian absurdities; Bloom, who does not understand Poe; and Silverman, who does not like Poe.

-- Anonymous, September 07, 2003

As a second opinion I second the above. IF you become quite adept as spotting bias and points of view it is interesting to look into the poisoned well, but you intend drinking for the purpose of an essay. Poe Studies has a website and some articles online and linked from the very excellent which has a bibliography evaluated for you. is a good educational interactive site.

-- Anonymous, September 08, 2003

Moreover, if really willing to write a short essay on Poe's tales, methink your best start should be the tales themselves, and not at all Poe's bios nor criticisms/comments about them. If you desire to write a short essay on La Fontaine's or Aesop's "Fables", perhaps that it would be more evident for you to start just with the fables themselves, and not at all with bios or criticisms. Don't you think so? Good luck. Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, September 09, 2003

Thanks for your answers folks!

Ive now bought the Arthur Hobson Quinn biography which seems to be the most respected source of information. But forgive me if I insist on seeking the work of Silverman -call it the Imp of perversity but when a book is so unanimously hated I cannot help but feel that it has to be something good.

To the third poster I only have to say that Ive of course read all of Edgar Allan Poes tales and most of his poems several times. I havent read the Arthur Gordon Pym novel yet and I know very little about his literary criticism.

-- Anonymous, September 09, 2003

Silverman's biography of Poe is little more than a rehash of Quinn and the Poe Log, filtered through a view of Poe which sounds frighteningly Griswold-esque. Poor Poe is blamed for everything that went wrong in his life. Time and again Silverman cherry-picks the information and interpretation which is least favorable to Poe. While admiting that Poe was far from perfect, Silverman's approach seems grossly unfair, and makes one wonder why he chose to write about a subject he clearly does not like. (The answer is almost surely money.) The pseudo-psychological readings of Poe's works (double "a"s, we are told, are references to John Allan) are laughable.

-- Anonymous, September 09, 2003

Oh, and in not reading Pym, you are missing very little indeed. Poe himself called it "a very silly book" and he was right. The current wave of scholarly interest in that particular work seems to me unwarranted.

-- Anonymous, September 09, 2003

Sorry to insist too, and I was truly hoping you have read Poe's tales (in all their various veins and tones and subjects) - and poems too. You are thus well acquainted with Eddie's fiction-works in prose and verse. But, again, if you are willing to write a (short?) essay not on Poe but on Poe's Tales, not on the man, but on his works, I don't think (I may be totally wrong) necessary to search help from (good or bad) biographies, as I suggested yesterday when evoking similar cases with other writers. On the other hand, for sure well-done serious criticisms on Poe's works (you don't imagine how many ones) are of great help for building such an essay as you are willing to make, but again, Poe remains, to my mind at least, probably the best (and perhaps the first with which we should always begin) "commentator" on his own works. Thence the necessity, methinks, to start first from Poe's own letters, literary criticisms, prefaces, lectures and other non-fiction miscellanies you can find on line at the really marvellous web-site, among the "works". Naturally, Poe's writings are fascinating and lead any reader one day or another to get more and more informative data, just the step, it seems, you are now ready to try. And in doing so, you will perhaps see and comprehend that one may spend more than a single life with such an opulent (addictive?) subject... Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, the major danger will always, when using biographical facts, come from too easily confusing Poe and his created fictional characters. Be careful not to fall in this common error. In any case, I wish you a nice and delightful journey amid this copious and seducing matter. Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

And lest to be misundersood with my poorly formulated sentence about the major danger just evoked, I prefer to precise "...confusing Poe and his created characters, NARRATORS included.", because many (pseudo-)biographies, (and, above all, those of them which show sustained ambition for being interpretative ones) frequently confuse, among other things, the various created-for-effect "narrative-I"s... and their author/creator! Bonaparte is alas one amid the most conspicuous examples of such a fall in this sad trap. Yours, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

Thanks for your interest mr. Private. Perhaps, as you say, Poe biographies will turn out to be completely useless for my project - specially since I also consider Freudian auto-biographical approaches to border on masturbation, if you know what I mean. But Im simply interested on the mans life. How can you blame me?

"On the other hand, for sure well-done serious criticisms on Poe's works (you don't imagine how many ones) are of great help for building such an essay as you are willing to make, but again, Poe remains, to my mind at least, probably the best (and perhaps the first with which we should always begin) "commentator" on his own works." Of course Ill get into Poes non-fiction (and also in Pym, just for completism) too but as you say well-done criticism is of the highest priority for me. I dont want to copy something that has already been done and besides Im interested on any interpretation of Poes tales, if just for curiositys sake.

And so Im forced to ask you. What do you consider to be the best criticism available on Poe? Oh and please forgive my poor grammar. English is only my second language.

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

I surely don't blame you, I assure you! And English is my second language too. I may, perhaps too subjectively, suggest you Forclaz's "Le Monde d'Edgar Poe" (1976, if I remember well - I write always from public cyber-cafs, having no PC at home) as probably the best and objective "recent" (!) study in French (your first language?) on the works of E. A. Poe, but a little feebler, though equally keen and earnest, on his poetical works. G.R. Thompson 1969/70 introduction to "Poe's Great Short Works" (many reprints, plus a more extensive later study with the same insights) is, to my mind, another extremely well-done and consistent (and inovative) approach, as well as Davidson's "Poe -- A Critical Study". For the poems, R. Wilbur's approach (in the "Laurels series" edition - often reprinted too) remains, to my mind again, an effective start towards new directions. Try to find them, and from their serious bibliographies, you will certainly get the first step I alluded to yesterday. Good luck. Yours sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

-- Anonymous, September 11, 2003

Thank you very much Private. Good luck to you too in whatever youre doing at the moment. Oh and actually my first language is Spanish. I only know a little (very little) of French from school.

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Back from home, here for you some other useful and really well-done studies for your researches (and perhaps to amorce the descent into the very Maelstrom of informations):

a) G. Rans - "E. A. Poe" (Oliver & Boyd - 1965; though short, an extremely clever synthetical study)

b) M. Allen - "Poe and the British Magazine Tradition" (1969, often reprinted)

c) About "PYM": H. Beaver's remarquable 1975 introduction & notes to his edition in the "Penguin Classics" (to be completed with S. Kaplan's and Ridgely's ones)

d) About "EUREKA": R. P. Benton's rich collection of essays in "Poe as a Literary Cosmologer" (Transcendental Books - 1975)

e) About "Poe as a Journalist and Critic": R. D. Jacobs (1969)'s and Cl. Richard (1978, in French)'s excellent ones, though presenting both some prejudices needing to be revisited (plus the fundamental "historical" "Poe's Literary Battles" by S. Moss - many reprints)

f)The classical collections of well-choosen essays clustered by Carlson (often reprinted, in paperback) and Clarke (in an expensive box of four volumes, reprinting very old ones together with recentest), as well as the brand new one (2002) by Hayes entitled "Cambridge Companion to Poe" (though with nothing conspicuously new, in my humble opinion)

g)And, just for the fun, why not D. Hoffman's "Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe...", an hate/love rather honestly documented survey, with paroxystic crisis of extremely subjective approaches, but, nevertheless, an extremely HONEST one...

h)About bios, you may totally trust Mr None-Outis' suggestion about the "Poe Log" -- by far the very best and absolutely reliable book on Eddie's almost day by day life.

Your sincerely, Raven's Shade (Belgium).

P.S. Roger Forclaz's (too often forgotten, very unjustly) big general study was published in 1974 by Lang (Berne and Francfort). g)

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

"Perfidit antiquum litera prima solum."

No explanation is given of the origin of speech, but its exercise is evidently regarded as coeval with the creation of man. The original unity of speech was restored in Noah. Disturbing causes were, however, early at work to dissolve this twofold union of community and speech.

The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that of an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure that it was a man's voice. It might have been a woman's. Was not acquainted with the Italian language. The shrill voice was very loud louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a German. Might have been a woman's voice. Does not understand German. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice was that of an Englishman is sure of this. Does not understand the English language, but judges by the intonation. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Distinguished several words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a native of Russia.

Ironically, as we attempt to master our emotions, there is a tendency to dis-own and disavow our own experience, leaving us at the mercy of verification from external sources. In this way, ideas about 'growing up' are often synonymous with growing away from self. Received knowledge comes to preclude understanding. In our zeal to illuminate the relevant dimensions of complex processes, attempts to simplify often serve to obscure, as we collapse dimensions and dichotomize experience. In this way, succession is insufficiently distinguished from progression.

In the present case - indeed in all cases of secret writing - the first question regards the language of the cipher; for the principles of solution, so far, especially, as the more simple ciphers are concerned, depend on, and are varied by, the genius of the particular idiom. In general, there is no alternative but experiment (directed by probabilities) of every tongue known to him who attempts the solution, until the true one be attained. But, with the cipher now before us, all difficulty is removed by the signature. The pun on the word 'Kidd' is appreciable in no other language than the English. But for this consideration I should have begun my attempts with the Spanish and French, as the tongues in which a secret of this kind would most naturally have been written by a pirate of the Spanish main. As it was, I assumed the cryptograph to be English.

If it is indeed clear that each of the two scenes of the real drama is narrated in the course of a different dialogue, it is only through access to those notions set forth in our teaching that one may recognize that it is not thus simply to augment the charm of the exposition, but that the dialogues themselves, in the opposite use they make of the powers of speech, take on a tension which makes of them a different drama, one which our vocabulary will distinguish from the first as persisting in the symbiotic order.

It is fortunate that a 'science of verse' is not required by a poet to write poetry, any more than a 'science of grammar' is required by you and me to speak our language correctly, for both prosody and grammar have long been in the utmost confusion, every writer contradicting every other, and claiming to be the first and only one to offer a logical system.

This digression is not only a recollection of principles distantly addressed to those who impute to us a neglect of nonverbal communication: in determining the scope of what speech repeats, it prepares the question of what symptoms repeat. Thus the indirect telling sifts out the linguistic dimension, and the general narrator, by duplicating it, "hypothetically" adds nothing to it. For the latter will be opposed to the first like those poles we have distinguished elsewhere in language and which are opposed like word to speech.

-- Anonymous, September 17, 2003

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