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Poe as a student

Edgar allan poe at the university.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at the University on February 14, 1826, the 136th of 177 students registering for the second session. He attended classes in the Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages, under Professors Long and Blaetterman respectively. Although not known for spending long hours at his lessons, Poe was already remarkable for his brooding, lonely genius. His excellent memory allowed him to read ahead in class and recite correctly even when utterly unprepared. In his final examinations, he took top honors in French and Latin and was cited for excellence by both professors.

Only in class from seven until nine-thirty each morning, Poe had ample free time to explore Charlottesville and participate in University activities. He was elected to the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society on June 17, 1826, and once served as its Secretary pro tem. Shortly after joining, he read an essay on “Heat and Cold” and probably took part in the many lively debates of the term. Although he did not regularly present original work to the Society, he often entertained his closest friends with private readings in his room. According to George Douglass Sherley:

Room Marker

Generally well-liked, Poe was considered talented, if slightly odd by his peers. Once when he read a short story written specially for his friends, someone laughingly claimed that the hero’s name, “Gaffy,” was repeated too often. Before the others could object, Poe hurled his manuscript into the fire, thereby earning the longtime nickname “Gaffy” Poe. This nickname, though never relished, is said to have followed him all the way to West Point five years later.

In the University of Virginia Library’s WWW Exhibit “Arise and Build” a letter is displayed, written by Poe and addressed to John Allan, dated September 21, 1826. His letter bemoans the approach of finals and the many hours spent studying. Poe also writes about the continuing construction of the University, noting that the Rotunda was almost completed. He closes his letter with an account of a particularly nasty altercation between two students. Such was the life of a student in the nineteenth century.

Although a gifted and popular student, Poe left the University on December 15, 1826, never to return. The funds his stepfather had sent him were woefully inadequate despite his many pleas for more assistance. He was forced to borrow on credit from Charlottesville merchants and then turned to heavy gambling in an attempt to pay his bills. Unfortunately, Poe was extremely unlucky at cards, and by the end of the ten-month session, had amassed a debt of over $2,000. John Allan, who disapproved strongly of gambling, was furious with his stepson and refused to allow him to return to the University. On his last night in Room 13, West Range, Poe spoke earnestly with William Wertenbaker, the University librarian, of his deep regret and declared that he was honor-bound to pay every last cent at his earliest opportunity.

A pane of glass taken from the window of Room 13, West Range, is on display in the University’s Rotunda. According to legend, Poe etched the following stanza into this pane sometime before his unfortunate departure:

O Thou timid one, let not thy Form rest in slumber within these Unhallowed walls, For herein lies The ghost of an awful crime.

After returning to Richmond, Poe was trained as a clerk and put to work in his stepfather’s counting house. Frustrated by Allan’s stifling authoritarianism and sarcastic contempt for his writing, Poe secretly sought independence and applied for other employment. Upon discovery, he was heartily denounced as an ungrateful wretch and ordered from the family home. He soon moved to Boston, in 1827, where his first book Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published the very same year. It was not until the 1845 publication of “The Raven” however, that Poe achieved any real national prominence. Although famous almost overnight, he remained desperately poor, for without copyright protection, the countless reprints brought him nothing. He died just four years later, on October 7, 1849, and despite his short life, is today recognized as one of America’s most brilliant poets.

His enduring influence is evident in the number of visitors drawn each year to the University of Virginia just to get a glimpse of Poe’s Room and hear the stories of his early days. Although his stay at the University was regrettably brief, it is natural to wonder how his time here helped shape his later life and works. He wrote “Tamerlane” while still a student, and in both this poem and “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”, he refers explicitly to his experiences in Charlottesville. President Alderman, in an address during the Poe Centenary celebrations, surmised that the youthful promise of the place could not have failed to help inspire him. Many scholars have long suggested that two lines of his classic poem, “To Helen”, may reflect his feelings about the University of Virginia’s historic Lawn. Published in the Poems of 1831, “To Helen” was probably written soon after he left the University and may contain an allusion to the Greek and Roman architecture of the Lawn.

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The Essays, Sketches and Lectures of Edgar Allan Poe


Sections:   The Collections and Books    The Essays, etc.    Related Material    Bibliography

The Collections and Books:

Editions Authorized by Poe:

Poe published only one of his lectures during his life. This was “The Universe,” published as Eureka , the “Prose Poem” by which he hoped most ernestly to be remembered. Other items were first collected in the posthumous collection edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, incorporating some additional manuscript changes and other material. These collections are listed chronologically.

  • Eureka: A Prose Poem   (1848 — EUREKA — there are several copies with annotations by Poe)
  • The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe , edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold   (1850, volume II: Poems and Miscellanies ; and 1856, volume IV: Pym, &c .  — WORKS )

Later Collected Editions:

After Griswold's death in 1857, there were several alternate attempts to collect Poe's works, including a number of the essays and Eureka . The most important of these were collections edited by John H. Ingram, also in four volumes (initially published in 1874-1875), the ten-volume set edited by Edmund C. Stedman and George E. Woodberry (initially published in 1894-1895), and the seventeen-volume set edited by James A. Harrison (published in 1902). (Although at least one of these editions bears the title of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe , none of them are, in fact, actually complete. In some instances, they also contain works that have since been identified as not being by Poe.)

  • The Works of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by John H. Ingram   (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1874-1875 — The essays are collected in volume 3)
  • The Works of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by Edmund C. Stedman and George E. Woodberry   (Chicago: Stone and Kimball, 1894-1895 — The essays are collected in volume 7 and Eureka will be found in volume 9)
  • The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by James A. Harrison   (New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1902 — The essays are collected in volume 14 and Eureka will be found in volume 16)

Modern Scholarly Editions:

The most widely recognized scholarly edition of Poe's tales and sketches, also including some of the essays, are the volumes edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott, (published in 1978, nearly a decade after Mabbott's death), completed by his widow, Maureen Cobb Mabbott (and several assistants), with a few additional essays appearing in the volumes in the edition as continued by Burton R. Pollin. All of these volumes are thoroughly annotated, with introductory material, notes and variants. Two volumes originally prepared for this series, edited by Stuart and Susan Levine, were published separately by the University of Illinois Press.

  • The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott   (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978 — Volume 2: Tales and Sketches, 1831-1842 and Volume 3: Tales and Sketches, 1843-1849 )
  • The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by Burton R. Pollin   (New York: Gordian Press, 1986 and 1997 — Volume 3: Writings in the Broadway Journal, Text , Volume 4: Writings in the Broadway Journal, Annotations , and Volume 35 Writings in the Southern Literary Messenger, Text and Annotations
  • Eureka and Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory , edited by Stuart and Susan F. Levine   (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004 and 2009)

The Essays, Sketches and Lectures:

These items are arranged alphabetically by name. Within each name, entries are listed chronologically. Some of these items were not published under any specific title and most are, therefore, given here under a title deemed appropriately descriptive. The authorship of some items is a topic long researched and debated. Most of the items included here were signed, but for some, the attribution to Poe is necessarily the result of conjecture. A few prominent items that have been rejected are also listed, including a number of poems that were erroneously ascribed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott.

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  • “ American Novel-Writing ”
  • “ American Poetry ”
  • “ American Poetry ”   (a lecture)
  • “ Anastatic Printing ”
  • “ Byron and Miss Chaworth ”
  • “ The Capitol at Washington ”   (rejected)
  • “ A Chapter in the History of Vivum-Ovo ”   (rejected)
  • “ Cryptography ” (alternate title for “Secret Writing”)
  • “ The Elk ”   (later title of “Morning on the Wissahiccon”)
  • “ English Notes for Extensive Circulation ”   (rejected)
  • “ Eureka ”
  • “ Exordium [to Critical Notices] ”
  • “ A Few Words on Etiquette ”   (rejected)
  • “ Harpers Ferry ”   (rejected)
  • “ House Furniture ” (alternate title for “The Philosophy of Furniture”)
  • “ Instinct Versus Reason — A Black Cat ”
  • “ Letter to B—— ”
  • “ Maelzel's Chess-Player ”
  • “ Magazine Writing — Peter Snook ” (alternate title of a review of “Peter Snook,” by James Dalton
  • “ Morning on the Wissahiccon ”   (original title of “The Elk”)
  • “ Notes Upon English Verse ”   (original title for “The Rationale of Verse”)
  • “ An Opinion on Dreams ”    (rejected)
  • “ Our Magazine Literature ”    (Possibly by Poe, but disputed)
  • “ Old English Poetry ”    (Actually a later title assigned to Poe's review of Book of Gems by Samuel Carter Hall)
  • “ Palaestine ”
  • “ The Pay for American Authors ”
  • The Philosophy of Animal Magnetism   (rejected)
  • “ The Philosophy of Composition ”
  • “ The Philosophy of Furniture ”
  • “ The Poetic Principle ”
  • “ Poets and Poetry of America ”   (a lecture, also called “American Poetry”)
  • “ The Rationale of Verse ”
  • “ Secret Writing ”
  • “ Some Secrets of the Magazine Prison-House ”
  • “ Some Account of Stonehenge ”
  • “ Street-Paving ”

Related Material:

  • A chronological index   (in preparation)
  • “ The Canon of Poe's Essays, Sketches & Lectures


  • Brigham, Clarence S., Edgar Allan Poe's Contributions to Alexander's Weekly Messenger , Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society , April 1943. (Also reprinted separately.)
  • Edsall, Thomas, ed., The Poe Catalogue , Baltimore: The 19th Century Shop, 1992. (This catalogue includes a few reprints of material which are not noted elsewhere.)
  • Harrison, James A[lbert]., ed, The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe , 17 vols, New York: T. Crowell, 1902.
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bilbiography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe , Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943. (The best overall bibliography of Poe, although it does contain errors and is somewhat outdated.)
  • Levine, Stuart and Susan F., eds., Eureka , Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004  (Poe's text, edited and with an introduction, notes and textual variants)
  • Levine, Stuart and Susan F., eds., Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory , Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009 (Poe's texts, edited and with introductory material, notes and textual variants)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe ; (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches ), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Second printing 1979)
  • Pollin, Burton R., ed., The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe ; Vols. III & IV - The Broadway Journal: Non-Fictional Prose , New York: Gordian Press, 1986; Vol. V - The Southern Literary Messenger: Non-Fictional Prose , New York: Gordian Press, 1997.
  • Thompson, G. Richard, ed. , Essays and Reviews , New York: The Library of America, 1984. (A good basic collection.)
  • Vines, Lois D., ed., Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities , Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999. (An extremely useful compendium of articles by various authors, divided by country or region.)
  • Woodberry, George E[dward]. and Stedman, Edmund Clarence, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe , 10 vols, Chicago, 1894-1895. (Reprinted in 1903 and 1914.)

[S:1 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - The Essays, Sketches and Lectures of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was a writer and critic famous for his dark, mysterious poems and stories, including “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

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Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?

Quick facts, army and west point, writing career as a critic and poet, poems: “the raven” and “annabel lee”, short stories, legacy and museum.

FULL NAME: Edgar Allan Poe BORN: January 19, 1809 DIED: October 7, 1849 BIRTHPLACE: Boston, Massachusetts SPOUSE: Virginia Clemm Poe (1836-1847) ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Capricorn

Edgar Allan Poe was born Edgar Poe on January 19, 1809, in Boston. Edgar never really knew his biological parents: Elizabeth Arnold Poe, a British actor, and David Poe Jr., an actor who was born in Baltimore. His father left the family early in Edgar’s life, and his mother died from tuberculosis when he was only 2.

Separated from his brother, William, and sister, Rosalie, Poe went to live with his foster parents, John and Frances Allan, in Richmond, Virginia. John was a successful tobacco merchant there. Edgar and Frances seemed to form a bond, but he had a more difficult relationship with John.

By age 13, Poe was a prolific poet, but his literary talents were discouraged by his headmaster and by John, who preferred that young Edgar follow him in the family business. Preferring poetry over profits, Poe reportedly wrote poems on the back of some of Allan’s business papers.

miles george, thomas goode tucker, and edgar allan poe

Money was also an issue between Poe and John. Poe went to the University of Virginia in 1826, where he excelled in his classes. However, he didn’t receive enough money from John to cover all of his costs. Poe turned to gambling to cover the difference but ended up in debt.

He returned home only to face another personal setback—his neighbor and fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster had become engaged to someone else. Heartbroken and frustrated, Poe moved to Boston.

In 1827, around the time he published his first book, Poe joined the U.S. Army. Two years later, he learned that his mother, Frances, was dying of tuberculosis, but by the time he returned to Richmond, she had already died.

While in Virginia, Poe and his father briefly made peace with each other, and John helped Poe get an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Poe excelled at his studies at West Point, but he was kicked out after a year for his poor handling of his duties.

During his time at West Point, Poe had fought with John, who had remarried without telling him. Some have speculated that Poe intentionally sought to be expelled to spite his father, who eventually cut ties with Poe.

After leaving West Point, Poe published his third book and focused on writing full-time. He traveled around in search of opportunity, living in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond. In 1834, John Allan died, leaving Poe out of his will, but providing for an illegitimate child Allan had never met.

Poe, who continued to struggle living in poverty, got a break when one of his short stories won a contest in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter . He began to publish more short stories and, in 1835, landed an editorial position with the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. Poe developed a reputation as a cut-throat critic, writing vicious reviews of his contemporaries. His scathing critiques earned him the nickname the “Tomahawk Man.”

His tenure at the magazine proved short, however. Poe’s aggressive reviewing style and sometimes combative personality strained his relationship with the publication, and he left the magazine in 1837. His problems with alcohol also played a role in his departure, according to some reports.

Poe went on to brief stints at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine , Graham’s Magazine , as well as The Broadway Journal , and he also sold his work to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger , among other journals.

In 1844, Poe moved to New York City. There, he published a news story in The New York Sun about a balloon trip across the Atlantic Ocean that he later revealed to be a hoax. His stunt grabbed attention, but it was his publication of “The Raven,” in 1845, that made Poe a literary sensation.

That same year, Poe found himself under attack for his stinging criticisms of fellow poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow . Poe claimed that Longfellow, a widely popular literary figure, was a plagiarist, which resulted in a backlash against Poe.

Despite his success and popularity as a writer, Poe continued to struggle financially, and he advocated for higher wages for writers and an international copyright law.

Poe self-published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems , in 1827. His second poetry collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems , was published in 1829.

As a critic at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond from 1835 to 1837, Poe published some of his own works in the magazine, including two parts of his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym . Later on came poems such as “Ulalume” and “The Bells.”

“The Raven”

Poe’s poem “The Raven,” published in 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror , is considered among the best-known poems in American literature and one of the best of Poe’s career. An unknown narrator laments the demise of his great love Lenore and is visited by a raven, who insistently repeats one word: “Nevermore.” In the work, which consists of 18 six-line stanzas, Poe explored some of his common themes: death and loss.

“Annabel Lee”

This lyric poem again explores Poe’s themes of death and loss and might have been written in memory of his beloved wife, Virginia, who died two years prior its publication. The poem was published on October 9, 1849, two days after Poe’s death, in the New York Tribune .

In late 1830s, Poe published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque , a collection of short stories. It contained several of his most spine-tingling tales, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia,” and “William Wilson.”

In 1841, Poe launched the new genre of detective fiction with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” His literary innovations earned him the nickname “Father of the Detective Story.” A writer on the rise, he won a literary prize in 1843 for “The Gold Bug,” a suspenseful tale of secret codes and hunting treasure.

“The Black Cat”

Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” was published in 1843 in The Saturday Evening Post . In it, the narrator, a one-time animal lover, becomes an alcoholic who begins abusing his wife and black cat. By the macabre story’s end, the narrator observes his own descent into madness as he kills his wife, a crime his black cat reports to the police. The story was later included in the 1845 short story collection, Tales by Edgar Allan Poe .

Later in his career, Poe continued to work in different forms, examining his own methodology and writing in general in several essays, including “The Philosophy of Composition,” “The Poetic Principle,” and “The Rationale of Verse.” He also produced the thrilling tale, “The Cask of Amontillado.”

virginia clemm poe

From 1831 to 1835, Poe lived in Baltimore, where his father was born, with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia. He began to devote his attention to Virginia; his cousin became his literary inspiration as well as his love interest. The couple married in 1836 when she was only 13 years old and he was 27.

In 1847, at the age of 24—the same age when Poe’s mother and brother also died—Virginia passed away from tuberculosis. Poe was overcome by grief following her death, and although he continued to work, he suffered from poor health and struggled financially until his death in 1849.

Poe died on October 7, 1849, in Baltimore at age 40.

His final days remain somewhat of a mystery. Poe left Richmond on ten days earlier, on September 27, and was supposedly on his way to Philadelphia. On October 3, he was found in Baltimore in great distress. Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he died four days later. His last words were “Lord, help my poor soul.”

At the time, it was said that Poe died of “congestion of the brain.” But his actual cause of death has been the subject of endless speculation. Some experts believe that alcoholism led to his demise while others offer up alternative theories. Rabies, epilepsy, and carbon monoxide poisoning are just some of the conditions thought to have led to the great writer’s death.

Shortly after his passing, Poe’s reputation was badly damaged by his literary adversary Rufus Griswold. Griswold, who had been sharply criticized by Poe, took his revenge in his obituary of Poe, portraying the gifted yet troubled writer as a mentally deranged drunkard and womanizer. He also penned the first biography of Poe, which helped cement some of these misconceptions in the public’s minds.

Although Poe never had financial success in his lifetime, he has become one of America’s most enduring writers. His works are as compelling today as they were more than a century ago. An innovative and imaginative thinker, Poe crafted stories and poems that still shock, surprise, and move modern readers. His dark work influenced writers including Charles Baudelaire , Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Stephane Mallarme.

The Baltimore home where Poe stayed from 1831 to 1835 with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, Poe’s cousin and future wife Virginia, is now a museum. The Edgar Allan Poe House offers a self-guided tour featuring exhibits on Poe’s foster parents, his life and death in Baltimore, and the poems and short stories he wrote while living there, as well as memorabilia including his chair and desk.

  • The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.
  • Lord, help my poor soul.
  • Sound loves to revel near a summer night.
  • But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born. Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are have their origin in the ecstasies which might have been.
  • They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.
  • The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
  • With me poetry has been not a purpose, but a passion; and the passions should be held in reverence; they must not—they cannot at will be excited, with an eye to the paltry compensations, or the more paltry commendations, of mankind.
  • And now—have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart.
  • All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
  • I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active—not more happy—nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.
  • [I]f you wish to forget anything upon the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.
  • Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.

Edgar Allan Poe

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe by Richard Kopley LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2016 LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0050

Born to a gifted actress and a less talented actor, Edgar Allan Poe (b. 1809–d. 1849) was orphaned in 1811 and taken in by the Allans of Richmond. Over time, tensions with John Allan grew, culminating with young Poe’s withdrawal from the University of Virginia in 1826 for incurring gambling debts and leading to his 1827 voyage to Boston. Poe published Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), then joined the army, eventually serving as a cadet at West Point, and, after deliberately causing his own court-martial, lived in Baltimore with his aunt Maria Clemm, his cousin Virginia, and his brother, Henry (who died in 1831). Having published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829) and Poems (1831), Poe shifted to fiction, and in 1835 he became an editor of Richmond’s Southern Literary Messenger . He published short stories, poems, and criticism, and he began to write his novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym . Owing to his drinking, however, he lost his job in 1837 and ventured, with his new wife, Virginia, and his aunt (now his mother-in-law), to New York City—where he published Pym (1838)—and then to Philadelphia. In 1842 Virginia developed tuberculosis, his drinking intensified, and his poverty continued—indeed, he declared bankruptcy late that year. Yet, also during the Philadelphia period, he served as a magazine editor and wrote some of his greatest stories. His collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in 1840, and he soon thereafter created the modern detective story. In 1844 Poe and his family moved to New York City, where he achieved his greatest fame with “The Raven” in 1845. Also, he published The Raven and Other Poems (1845) and Tales (1845). But his drinking interfered with his editing the Broadway Journal , and he became involved in literary and legal conflicts. He and his family moved to Fordham, and Virginia died there in January 1847. In 1848 he published his cosmological prose-poem, Eureka , and in 1849 he returned to Richmond and became engaged to a wealthy widow, Elmira Royster Shelton, whom he had known in his youth. But he clearly was unhappy with the arrangement. Exactly what happened in Baltimore is not known, but on 3 October 1849 he was found inebriated and “rather the worse for wear”; he died in the Washington College Hospital four days later. Rufus Griswold, his literary executor, wrote an infamously hostile obituary, from which Poe’s reputation has never fully recovered. Certainly, Poe had his share of mortal frailties, but he also created immortal works of literature.

A wide variety of full-length studies of Poe are available; a selection is offered here. The introductory works are Fisher 2008 , Hammond 1983 , Hayes 2009 , and Symons 1978 . All are written with ease, brevity, and clarity. The most rewarding for the new student of Poe is surely Fisher 2008 . The ambitious full-length studies are Allen 1934 , Hoffman 1972 , Quinn 1998 , and Silverman 1991 . For the authority of its research, Silverman 1991 is clearly the book to read. But Hoffman 1972 , with its lively, idiosyncratic interpretation of Poe’s writings, is a delight. And Allen 1934 and Quinn 1998 furnish important and interesting foundational work, which helped shape decades of Poe studies.

Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe . New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1934.

If its prose is sometimes a bit overheated and the detail occasionally imagined, this volume, which updates and corrects the two-volume 1926 version, is still a worthwhile, spirited, and engaging presentation of Poe’s life.

Fisher, Benjamin F. The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511816888

Slender, clear, even-handed, accessible introduction to Poe. This is a very good place to start for its brief and cogent considerations of his life, his context, his work, and its reception.

Hammond, J. R. The Edgar Allan Poe Companion . London: Macmillan, 1983.

A convenient introduction, featuring a brief biography, an analysis of his works in various genres, and handy orienting tools—a Poe dictionary and a listing of people and places in Poe’s works.

Hayes, Kevin J. Edgar Allan Poe . London: Reaktion, 2009.

This brief, recent account of Poe’s life opens with his influence and his participation in literary contests and then takes a more traditional chronological trajectory. The attitude conveyed is a mixture of pity and admiration.

Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe . 1st ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

Lively, personal, compelling study of Poe and his works, written con brio . The author offers a series of jaunty and provocative close readings with attention to a range of matters, from the hoaxical to the heroic.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography . Foreword by Shawn Rosenheim. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

The classic biography of Poe, written with ample research and evident affection. It includes a generous sampling of the letters and a deft blending of the life and the work. Sympathetic and appreciative, this volume continues to be a substantial contribution. Originally published in 1941.

Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar Allan Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance . New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Thoroughly researched standard biography of Poe, readable and reliable. It ably relates the life to the work but sometimes offers restrained admiration. The approach is psychoanalytic, with a thoughtful emphasis on Poe’s lifelong mourning.

Symons, Julian. The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe . New York: Harper & Row, 1978.

This work offers two separate overviews—one of Poe’s life and one of Poe’s works. The writing is straightforward, the interpretation tilted toward the psychoanalytic and without great regard for the academic.

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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. Poe’s father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and, later, to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, Poe moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems  (George Redway), was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems  (Hatch & Dunning). Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, Virginia, in Baltimore.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was thirteen years old at the time. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies.

Poe’s work as an editor, poet, and 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. French Symbolists such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Charles  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.

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113 Edgar Allan Poe Essay Topics & Examples

In case you’re searching for Edgar Allan Poe research paper topics to write about his life, death, and legacy, check the list. Our team has gathered ideas on the author and gothic literature below.

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👍 interesting edgar allan poe research paper topics, 💡 most interesting edgar allan poe topics to write about, ❓ research questions about edgar allan poe.

  • The Tell-Tale Heart Psychological Analysis & Critique The outstanding character in the tale, who is also the narrator, attracts a lot of attention from the readers. The narrator forms the basis of the tale.
  • “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe He entombs the corpse in the basement of his house, and when the police unexpectedly show up at his house, he inadvertently leads them to the corpse.
  • Literary Devices in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe As such, Montresor finds his companion’s “transgression” worthy of the cruelest death, and believes that his cause is so right that he deserves to get away with it. Hyperbole There is a sense of this […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe – American Literature The main themes that are evident in his work are the themes of death and love. He speaks of a chilling wind from the sky that emerged resulting in the death of her wife.
  • “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe Although the plot is different in each of these poems, both Annabel Lee and The Raven share the themes of death and lost love, as well as the symbolic language.
  • The Single Effect in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado The very first words uttered by the author at the start of the story carried the hook necessary to reel the reader into the story with the desired effect.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Story “The Black Cat” For instance, when the main character looked at the image of the cat on the wall, he saw it as “gigantic”; however, whether the size of the animal was an expression of paranormal or the […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Views on Madness in “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” The lesson that can be learned through the interface of this Poe’s short story is that no one can be trusted due to the lack of background information and deceptive practices.
  • Literature Symbols in “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe In spite of the fact that there are many symbols of different types in Poe’s “The Raven”, such symbols of darkness and depression as December, the raven, the Night’s Plutonian shore, and the repetition of […]
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Poe This metaphor is necessary to show that the feeling of guilt distorts his perception of reality. This is one of the details that can be distinguished.
  • Edgar Allan Poe, His Life and Literary Career Edgar died in Baltimore and the cause of his death was not clear. Edgar, in his element, overcame challenges and established a literary legacy that has stood the test of time.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe: The Role of the Narrator The role of the narrator of the story The Fall of the House of Usher is great indeed; his rationality and his ability to represent the events from the side of an immediate participant of […]
  • The Poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe The beginning of the poem reveals the narrator’s feelings toward Annabel Lee, determining the theme and the mood of the verse: “a maiden there lived whom you may know by the name of Annabel Lee; […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe: ”The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” In this discourse two of his famous short stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are studied in an attempt to better understand the use of symbolism, the literary tool of irony, and […]
  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe: Poem Analysis Expecting the sound to be caused by the wind, the speaker opens the window, through which a raven flies into the room.
  • The “Eldorado” Poem Analysis by Edgar Allan Poe The structure of the poem is AABCCB. Edgar Allan Poe vastly uses metaphors and sight sensory in the poem.
  • Revenge Theme in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe He, therefore, decides to seek revenge, but he wants to be careful in order not to risk his life. Fortunato seems to be fond of wine against Montresor, and he decides to use this as […]
  • “Black Cat” a Story by Edgar Allan Poe In turn, the use of various stylistic devices helps the writer create a sense of suspense and show the immense moral tension that the main character struggles with.
  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe The neighbors who heard the scuffle that ensued and went to the ladies house gave evidence to the police, and in as much as most of them agree on a great extent to the events […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Interpretation of “The Raven” One of the suggestions that dominate Poe’s talent in writing “The Raven” was the succession of terrible events the author encountered in his life.
  • Analysis of “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe After having lost his cat when a fire broke in his house, he felt a great need for another pet, same as that of Pluto, his pet cat.”This, then, was the very creature of which […]
  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” & “The Cask of Amontillado”: Summaries, Settings, and Main Themes As the narration progresses, fear arises in the reader or viewer, and finally, something horrific happens.”The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Cask of the Amontillado” share all of the features above, as […]
  • “The Black Cat” Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe The purpose of the short story has long been a subject of debate.”The Black Cat,” while having some characteristics of the horror genre, presents a psychoanalytical approach to the mind of a psychopath, a scrutiny […]
  • Imagery Use in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe The story utilizes graphical language and imagery in the development of a sense of deceptive and persuasive nature and circumstances in the expansion of the symbolic approach of sustaining a condition of suspense. The imagery […]
  • Dark Humor in The Cask of Amontillado Essay The use of horror and humor in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is one of the literary features that the author uses to constructs the story.
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Literary Devices and Their Meaning The purpose of his style, ornate and yet concise, of the grotesque characters, the growing tension in the narrative is “the greatest possible effect on his readers”.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado Although the revelation of the character of Montressor was done indirectly, the fact that he was also the narrator of the story enabled readers to have access to his thoughts and feelings.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s and Herman Melville Comparison To this end, the current paper is a comparative review of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and Melville’s “Billy Budd”.
  • Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe Literature Analysis He tries to justify his actions, and show that he is not a bad person. Most importantly, he tries to show that he is not a mad man.
  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe Analysis A poem that deals with family relationships and explain the poem’s meaning The poem is heavily based on the relationship between the narrator and Lenore with their affection being the subject of the whole poem.
  • The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe Poetry The head is alluded to the palace, while all the evil spirits mentioned represent the thoughts of a human beings mind.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Fear of Premature Burial For instance, in The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat the police arrive and stimulate a desire on the part of the narrator to confess his crime and undergo punishment from the state.
  • Mini Anthology: Poe Edgar Allan and Dickson Emily’ Works The other story that Poe Allen has written is “The fall of the House of Usher” whereby the main theme is about the haunted house, which is crumbling and this aspects brings out a Gothic […]
  • “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry Analysis It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with […]
  • Irony in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe As the atmosphere of gaiety during the carnival changes to the horror from the catacombs beneath Montresor’s palazzo the reader ascertains that the carnival was a prelude created by the author to admit the drastic […]
  • “Annabel Lee” Multi Rhythmic Poem by Edgar A. Poe Therefore, the author’s works created a powerful impact on the establishment of a connection between content and literary form. Thus, Poe’s writings possess the power to show the links between a concept and a form […]
  • Montressor in The Cask of Amontillado In addition, Montressor said that he was a friend of Fortunato but he seemed to have acted out of character when he assumed the habits and characteristics of a cold blooded killer.
  • Literary Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” The poem is imbued with a melancholy mood, which is stated in the first lines of the work. This is the main point of the poem.
  • The Gothic-Romantic Story, “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe It is also known that vampires typically rest during the day only to rise in the light of the moon. Thus, to my mind, the image of Poe’s Ligeia is strongly associated with a vampire […]
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” Review The tension intensifies with every stanza till the third one from the end after which the narrator understands the senselessness of the situation in searching for the answers for his questions in the raven’s “nevermore”.
  • Gothic Romanticism of Edgar Allen Poe When the thought of today, the nineteenth-century writer Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as the master of the short story and the psychological thriller.
  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe Literature Analysis Although “The Fall of the House of Usher” is traditionally believed to be a timeless horror story and a representation of the deepest human fears, it can also be viewed both as a product of […]
  • Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” In “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Poe portrays the Usher family as struggling to survive albeit in a gloomy manner that involves degradation, disease, and death.”The Fall of the House of Usher” is […]
  • Literary Approaches in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” In this story, the protagonist, whose wife was Ligeia, tells of the happiness he found in his marriage to her before her untimely death.
  • “The Raven” Poem by Edgar Allen Poe The raven’s “Nevermore” throughout the poem is a repetition that enhances the poem’s lyrical mood and emphasizes the main character’s hopelessness.
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Brief Biography Sublime’s exploration of the darkest sides of the human soul and psyche has contributed greatly to the development of the horror genre.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe Ideally, using the subjective understanding of Poe’s work, it is possible to evaluate some of the qualities of the story. At the same time, the setting of the story creates a lot of suspense for […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Life From Primary Sources I had indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one in the death of my wife [in 1847]. In the death of what was my life, then, I receive a […]
  • Conciseness in “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe The main arguments towards the development of the contemporary short story will be discussed in this essay, and the similarities between these visions and the statements in “The Tell-Tale Heart” will be described.
  • Epilogue to “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe It is that the murder is a reason for the fifty-two years-old disappearance of the respected Fortunato, and the Montresor’s guild is undeniable”.
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe The plot is told from the first person as the pronoun “I” is used and the story is told in the past tense.
  • The Rejection in the Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe The main character depicts his nervousness and the feeling of fear and anger caused by the old man’s vulture eye. He thinks that the police are simply making a mockery of his horror and points […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: Revenge, Hypocrisy, and Society On the day of the carnival Montresor goes looking for Fortunato and finds him a bit tipsy and it is then that he tells him of how he had acquired a rare kind of amontillado […]
  • Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe: Synthesized Approach There are certain commonalities between the artistic and symbolic representations of both writers/directors, especially in their representation of the madness and paranoia that exists in the world when people are placed in isolation and the […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Style of Fictional Works Minister D walked in and saw the contents of the letter, produced another copy that almost looked like the stolen one, and placed it next to the important letter.
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s Influence on Hitchcock From the above discussion, it can be said that Hitchcock’s work was greatly influenced by the work of Poe particularly in building the audience’s suspense and manipulating their attention.
  • Narration and Symbolism in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” The narrator of the story performs the role of the main rhetorical device that ensures the disclosure of the main theme of the story.
  • “Annabel Lee” the Work by Edgar Allen Poe The narrative description of the elegy expresses the narrator’s undying love for ‘Annabel Lee’ detailing a love which had originated many a year ago in the unidentified ‘kingdom by the sea’.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher In particular, we may analyze such novellas as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher.
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  • Inside the Narrator’s Mind: “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe It is significantly the working of the inner self or the perpetual threat of the unconscious to the conscious that leads the protagonist to the ultimate confession of the crime even when he is not […]
  • Military Career of Edgar Allan Poe Often overlooked, however, is the story of Poe’s life: the heartbreak, financial struggles, success, mysterious death, and of course his military career. The success of the ominous poem gave Poe a steady income and cemented […]
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Allan Edgar Poe This provides us with the clue, as to the discursive significance of the old man’s eye, as one of the story’s foremost motifs.
  • Edgar Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Ligeia” His method of murder signifies what he knows of stone masonry, of which he is a member, instead of the Masons, which is a secret organization that Fortunato is a member of.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man in the Crowd” Story The structure of the tale, its manner of narration, and the minimal number of main characters are only some of the features that make “The Man in the Crowd” one of the most memorable short […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Life, Poems, Short Stories The recognition of his works is based mainly on the uniqueness of the themes and characters the author created, as well as his excellent command of the language and exceptional imagery and style.
  • Edgar Allan Poe, an American Romanticism Writer Poe’s three works “The fall of the house of Usher”, “the Raven” and “The Masque of the Red Death” describe his dedication to literature and his negative attitudes towards aristocracy.
  • “Ligeia” a Book by Edgar Allan Poe Since the fact that the narrator is not in full control of the mind, this is made very apparent by the author, it could mean that Ligeia and Rowena are really the same people and […]
  • Edgar Poe’s Annabel Lee: Narrative Text Analysis As death and mortality along with love make the key themes of the poem, it will be reasonable to suggest that the mood of the latter is quite dark, despite the lyrical tone and the […]
  • Edgar Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” Literature Analysis The main character in “The Cask of Amontillado” is Montresor with Fortunato being a minor character in the short story. Also, Montresor is the story’s narrator, and a lot of details about his character are […]
  • Comparison of Works by Stephen Crane and Allan Poe Although Crane’s stories are imaginary, the reader can picture houses and the community in ‘The Monster’ or the town of Yellow Sky in ‘The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.’ He vividly describes the living conditions […]
  • Narrative Perspectives in Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” One of the reasons why the story The Cask of Amontillado and the poem My Last Duchess are being commonly referred to, as such that represent a particularly high value, is that the narrative perspective […]
  • Evans, Walter. “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Poe’s Theory of the Tale. In this article, Walter Evans discusses the narrative style of Edgar Allan Poe and speaks about the peculiarities of such a short story as The Fall of the House of Usher.
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Analyzing Literature Works Paying attention to such pieces of writing The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, Annabel Lee, and The Raven it is possible to say that the main idea of these […]
  • The Investigation of Ethical Issues in The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pond The secondary problem is related to an ethical dilemma with regards to the responsibility of the husband to provide and care for the family.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Writing Themes Coincidentally, he dedicated his first wave of writing to themes of innocence and beauty coupled with “Love and Joy as dynamic life values in the poet’s feeling for the potentiality of the harmony of mind […]
  • The Style and Themes of Edgar Allan Poe’s Literature In the first stanza, the departure of the lover marks the end of their love, while the second stanza uses the dropping of sand as symbolic to the passing of time in an hour glass.
  • Gothic Romanticism in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark” In the film “The Black Swan” directed by Darren Aronofsky, Nina struggles to fit into the ultimate role of the play “The Swan Lake”, as the Black Swan, even though she is comfortable playing the […]
  • The Tell-Tale Heart Essay However, when the police came to the Old Man’s house he gives himself away to the police because he hears the heart of the old man beating behind the floorboard and this incident may suggest […]
  • A Perfect Place for a Perfect Crime: Creating the Impeccable Setting It must be admitted that with his unusual gift of depicting the most petrifying environment so that it immediately rises in front of the reader’s eyes, Poe creates the perfect setting in The Cask of […]
  • Poe’s Favorite Subject Matter Is Death This is not an exaggerated statement judging from terms and imagery used in at least four of his popular works such as The Cask of Amontillado; The Black Cat; The Tell-Tale Heart; and The Masque […]
  • Poe’s life and how it influenced his work He feels privileged to have such a creature in his room and the fact that the raven answers his question of what its name is with the word “Nevermore”, adds to his excitement.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) This section tackles the main characters of the story and as aforementioned, the narrator and the old man are the only central characters in the story.
  • How Did Edgar Allan Poe Influence Literature?
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Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Literature › Literary Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe

Literary Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on November 30, 2017 • ( 1 )

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was the first major American writer explicitly to advocate the autonomy of poetry, the freeing of poetry from moral or educational or intellectual imperatives. His fundamental strategy for perceiving such autonomy was to view poetry not as an object but as a series of effects. Hence, while his views are broadly Romantic like Emerson ’s, they differ deeply from Emerson ’s in that they present an affective and expressionist view of poetry. While he is usually considered a Romantic, Poe’s concern with technique and construction exhibit a formalist disposition and anticipate some of the more modern formalistic theories.

Poe’s genius has often been seen as pathological: he lost both his parents at an early age, was informally adopted and later broke with his adoptive parents; he abandoned his studies at the University of Virginia , which he had entered in 1826; he was expelled from West Point Military Academy in 1831; he led a controversial life as a contributor to, and editor of, journals; he indulged in bouts of drinking, suffered from depression and paranoia. Yet his image as an outcast, his emphasis on beauty rather than morality or truth, his view of poetry as affording us a glimpse of an ideal world, as well as his insistence on the close union of poetry and music, exerted a considerable fascination and impact on writers such as Baudelaire , who translated a number of his tales, and Mallarmé , who translated his poems, as well as Lacan , who published in 1966 his seminar on Poe’s story The Purloined Letter .

Poe’s most famous tales include The Black Cat , The Fall of the House of Usher  (1839), and The Cask of Amontillado   (1846), and among his notable poems are To Helen , Israfel, The City in the Sea ,  and The Haunted Palace . His poem The Raven  (1842) was widely popular. Some of Poe’s radical insights into poetry and criticism are expressed in his essay The Philosophy of Composition (1846), which purports to explain the origins of his own poem The Raven.  Other critical essays include The Poetic Principle  and The Rationale of Verse . In The Philosophy of Composition , Poe urges that a poet should begin with the “consideration of an effect,” i.e., the response that will be produced in the reader or listener.13 He also urges that the poet should keep “originality always in view” ( PC ,  178). This effect, he insists, must be produced as a “unity of impression.” Poe does not believe that such a unified impression can be achieved by a long poem; since poetry “intensely excites, by elevating, the soul,” and since intense excitement must by nature be brief, a long poem “is, in fact, merely a succession of brief ones – that is to say, of brief poetical effects” ( PC, 180). A poem such as Paradise Lost , Poe argues, is at least one half composed of prose, with which the poetic passages are interspersed. Hence the first poetic requirement, unity of impression, cannot be satisfied in a long poem.


Poe’s second major claim for the nature of poetry is that it must be “universally appreciable,” and it is beauty that has the power universally to please. Hence, “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem . . . That pleasure which is at once the most intense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found in the contemplation of the beautiful” ( PC, 181). Poe points out that beauty is not, as is commonly supposed, “a quality, . . . but an effect,” an “intense and pure elevation of soul – not of intellect, or of heart.” Truth, which is the aim of the intellect, or passion, which represents an excitement of the heart, says Poe, are both more easily attainable in prose than poetry. In fact, both of these are antagonistic to beauty, “which is the atmosphere and the essence of the poem” ( PC, 182). Hence beauty – not truth, or emotion, or goodness – is the peculiar province of poetry. Moreover, beauty is reconceived by Poe not as a quality belonging to an object but as an effect in the subject; his views, perhaps influenced by Kant via Coleridge , stop short of Kant’s sophistication. Whereas, for Kant, beauty was a mode of apprehension on the part of the subject, for Poe it is a response caused in the reader or listener by the literary object or poem. These are the general points made in Poe’s essay, the remainder of which attempts to explain the stages of the composition of “The Raven.”

Poe’s subsequent essay, The Poetic Principle   (1850), offers a fuller account of his aesthetics. Here also, he urges that a long poem is a contradiction in terms since it cannot sustain the unity, the “totality of effect or impression,” that is the “vital requisite” in all works of art. Poe warns also that a poem may be “improperly brief ” such that it degenerates into epigrammatism. A poem that is very short cannot produce “a profound or enduring effect” ( PP,  890).

One of Poe’s chief endeavors in this essay is to identify and undermine what he calls “the heresy of The Didactic ,” which refers to the view that “the ultimate object of all Poetry is Truth” and that every poem “should inculcate a moral.” As against this, Poe insists that the most dignified and noble work is the “poem per se – this poem which is a poem and nothing more – this poem written solely for the poem’s sake” ( PP, 892– 893). This is perhaps the first insistence on artistic or poetic autonomy by an American writer; it may be significant, as emerges later in his text, that Poe somewhat aligned himself with Southern values and resented the domination of American letters by Northern liberalism, as instanced by the influence of the North American Review ( PP , 899). Poe himself wrote for the Southern Literary Messenger , eventually rising to the editorship of this journal. In this context, Poe’s insistence on artistic autonomy may have been a call to consider the beauty of a poem regardless of its political, as well as its moral, content; given that his notion of beauty was somewhat Platonic , it may also have been an attempt to lift art out of and above the sphere of everyday life and its entanglement in bitter political and social struggles.

At any rate, Poe makes a sharp distinction between “the truthful and the poetical modes” of apprehension and inculcation. Truth, he says, demands a severity of language: “We must be simple, precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, unimpassioned.” Such a mood, says Poe, “is the exact converse of the poetical” (“PP,” 893). Such a seemingly Platonic distinction between the language and mode of philosophy as against those of poetry has of course been challenged by many modern writers. Poe locates his views in a broader model of the mind which somewhat recalls Kant’s location of aesthetic judgment as situated between the realm of understanding (which addresses the realm of phenomena) and the realm of practical reason (comprehending the realm of morality). Poe likewise divides the mind into three aspects: “Pure Intellect, Taste, and the Moral Sense.” He places taste in the middle, acknowledging that it has “intimate relations” with the other two aspects; but he observes a distinction between these three offices: the intellect is concerned with truth; taste apprehends the beautiful; and moral sense disposes us toward duty (“PP,” 893). By situating his view of poetic autonomy within such a scheme, Poe is following a Kantian procedure of both identifying a subjective faculty specifically as aesthetic, and establishing boundaries between distinct human endeavors or attributes, boundaries which cannot be violated. Poe admits that the precepts of duty or even the lessons of truth can be introduced into a poem; but they must subserve the ultimate purpose of art, and must be placed “in proper subjection to that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the real essence of the poem” (“PP,” 895).

Hence poetry should not be realistic, merely copying or imitating the beauties that lie before us. Rather, poetry is “a wild effort to reach the Beauty above . . . to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone”; it is a “struggle to apprehend the supernal Loveliness” (“PP,” 894). Platonic passages such as these, urging the poet to rise above the transient world and to focus his gaze upon the eternal form of Beauty, must have attracted Baudelaire and some of the French Symbolists such as Mallarmé. Poe uses the term poetry in a broad sense, to cover all of the arts; but he sees a very close connection between poetry and music; in fact he defines poetry as “The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste . . . In the contemplation of Beauty we alone find it possible to attain that pleasurable elevation, or excitement, of the soul, which we recognize as the Poetic Sentiment, and which is so easily distinguished from Truth, which is the satisfaction of the Reason, or from Passion, which is the excitement of the Heart” (“PP,” 895). What is not Platonic, however, is the isolated exaltation of Beauty over truth and goodness; the harmony that was possible, even in theory, in Plato’s system, between these forms or essences, between these multifold dimensions of human endeavor, has disintegrated into a desperate craving for a beauty that is not found in the actual world, and a retreat from the increasingly troubled realms of truth and morality.


Poe defines the “poetic principle” as “the Human Aspiration for Supernal Beauty,” a quest for an excitement of the soul that is distinct from the intoxication of the heart or the satisfaction of reason. Truth may be instrumental in this quest inasmuch as it leads us to “perceive a harmony where none was apparent before.” The experience of such a harmony is “the true poetical effect” (“PP,” 906). Once again, we glimpse here reflections of Kantian ideas, refracted perhaps through Coleridge. The poet, according to Poe, recognizes in many phenomena the ambrosia that nourishes his soul, especially in “all unworldly motives – in all holy impulses – in all chivalrous, generous, and selfsacrificing deeds” (“PP,” 906). What is interesting here is that all of these phenomena appear to pertain to morality: the very morality that is expelled from the poet’s quest for beauty returns as the very ground of this quest, resurrected in aesthetic form on the ground of its own beauty. In other words, morality becomes an integral part of the aesthetic endeavor, and becomes justified on aesthetic grounds. Once again, art is seen as salvific, displacing the function of religion in serving as our guide to the world beyond.

Source: A History of  Literary Criticism : From Plato to the Present Editor(s): M. A. R. Habib

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Tags: Edgar Allan Poe , Israfel , Literary Criticism , Literary Theory , Poetry , Romanticism , The Black Cat , The Cask of Amontillado , The City in the Sea , The Fall of the House of Usher , The Haunted Palace , the heresy of The Didactic , The Philosophy of Composition , The Purloined Letter , The Rationale of Verse , To Helen

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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most celebrated of all American authors. Heavily influenced by the German Romantic Ironists, Poe made his mark in Gothic fiction, especially through the tales of the macabre for which he is now so famous. Although he regarded himself primarily as a poet, he is one of the few indisputably great writers of the short story, alongside Guy de Maupassant and O. Henry. Besides redefining that form as a vehicle for literary art, Poe also contributed to the modern...

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college essay edgar allan poe

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Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays: A Library of America College Edition (Library of America College Editions)

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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays: A Library of America College Edition (Library of America College Editions) Paperback – October 1, 1996

  • Book 1 of 1 Library of America Edgar Allan Poe Edition
  • Print length 1520 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Library of America
  • Publication date October 1, 1996
  • Dimensions 5.1 x 2 x 7.7 inches
  • ISBN-10 1883011388
  • ISBN-13 978-1883011383
  • See all details

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Library of America; Library of America edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 1520 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1883011388
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1883011383
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.25 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.1 x 2 x 7.7 inches
  • #1,510 in American Fiction Anthologies
  • #3,808 in Essays (Books)
  • #11,691 in Short Stories Anthologies

About the author

Edgar allan poe.

Author, poet, and literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe is credited with pioneering the short story genre, inventing detective fiction, and contributing to the development of science fiction. However, Poe is best known for his works of the macabre, including such infamous titles as The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Lenore, and The Fall of the House of Usher. Part of the American Romantic Movement, Poe was one of the first writers to make his living exclusively through his writing, working for literary journals and becoming known as a literary critic. His works have been widely adapted in film. Edgar Allan Poe died of a mysterious illness in 1849 at the age of 40.

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Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” Summary & Meaning

November 26, 2023

I’m looking outside at the bleak November weather while writing this “The Raven” summary. Despite my modern electric lighting, it’s easy to feel spooked at this time of year. Dusk comes early and the wind blows the rain sideways, hard enough to rap on my window. I guess some things haven’t changed much since Edgar Allen Poe’s time. Perhaps everyone can identify with the feelings his most popular poem provokes—fear, grief, and something less tangible, lurking in the dark. A talking bird, perhaps? Before jumping to any conclusions, I suggest we take a closer look at what went into the making of the poem. Then we’ll make a “The Raven” summary and pick apart the various “The Raven” meanings.

“The Raven” Summary: Historical and Biographical Context

The 19th-century American Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote poems, short stories, and essays. Perhaps you know him already from some of his famous Gothic-inspired stories. These include “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Then there’s his often-quoted poem “Annabel Lee,” which inspired Nabokov when writing Lolita . Poe himself drew poetic inspiration from earlier English romantics, including Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. His detective stories, including “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. As for Poe’s penchant for gloomy atmospheres and horrific revelations, he took his cues from leading Gothic novelist Ann Radcliff.

Despite this breadth of writing, Poe maintained that literature needn’t have a function beyond acting as a work of art. This theory, called “art for art’s sake,” was shared by some of Poe’s contemporaries, including Oscar Wilde. Poe’s aim with poetry involved invoking sadness, strangeness, and loss, which in turn would elicit a sense of beauty. This technique applied in particular to “The Raven,” which Poe wrote around 1845. Here, he wished to explore the loss of beauty and the impossibility of regaining it. He did so by incarnating beauty in a deceased love, which he called “the most poetical topic in the world.” This trope of a beloved’s untimely death dates back to Petrarch, who dedicated sonnets to his lost love, Laura. Dante followed, chasing his sweetheart Beatrice through hell, purgatory, and heaven. By maintaining this tradition, Poe strategically positioned himself in the same lauded literary canon.

“The Raven” Summary: Reception

While critics received “The Raven” with mixed opinions, the public responded favorably. This poem would become Poe’s most popular in his lifetime. It granted him at least some of the recognition he wished to obtain in his writing career. Later, Charles Baudelaire would translate “The Raven” into French. Thus, the poem went on to inspire the French Symbolists, including Arthur Rimbaud.

Even in the 20th and 21st centuries, “The Raven” has continued to inspire artists in high and popular culture. Perhaps you’ve heard of the British rock band The Alan Parsons Project . Their album “Tales of Mystery and Imagination, is entirely based on Poe’s writing, and contains a song called “The Raven.” Then there are the recent Poe-inspired Netflix adaptations, and even the football team, the Baltimore Ravens. Yet to understand what makes “The Raven” such a timeless and adaptable piece of literature, we must return to the source. So, without further ado, the poem, if you please.

“The Raven” Poem

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Nameless here for evermore.

The Raven Summary & Meaning (Continued)

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—

This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—

Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;

Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—

’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—

Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—

On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”

Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee

Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!

By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

“The Raven” Summary

“The Raven” begins with an unnamed narrator falling asleep while trying to lose himself in his books on a cold, dreary December night. He hopes these books will provide a distraction from his grief for Lenore. Yet the real distraction comes in the shape of a talking raven. He first hears the raven tapping at his door. Upon opening the door, the narrator finds nothing but darkness, and his own voice, echoing “Lenore.” Already, the narrator seems to be looking for some mystic sign of his lost love.

When the tapping continues, the narrator next opens the window. In steps a raven. Without pause, it enters and perches above the doorframe, on the bust of a Greek god. The corvid squawks only one word, “nevermore,” in response (or so it seems) to anything and everything the narrator says. What follows is fanciful, amusing, and melancholic, all at once.

The narrator, supposing the raven can only repeat a word he once heard, dismisses the meaning behind “nevermore.” Despite this rationale, he pulls up a chair, and cannot help but ask the raven questions. Distraught from Lenore’s recent death, the narrator seeks meaning in the raven’s unchanging responses. When he asks if angels have sent the bird to provide relief from his mourning, the raven answers “Nevermore.” Soon the narrator begins to suspect the bird has not come from heaven, but somewhere more devilish. Still, he continues to ask if he may hope to heal. The raven answers “Nevermore.” The narrator, becoming desperate, asks the raven if he will meet Lenore in Eden, meaning heaven. “Nevermore,” the raven responds. Enraged, the narrator asks the raven to leave. Naturally, the bird answers “Nevermore.” The poem ends with the raven perched above the narrator, whose soul is crushed.

“The Raven” Meaning: Obscure Words and Allusions

To synthesize the above “The Raven” summary, I needed to look into a few key allusions and some difficult vocabulary. Many of Poe’s allusions refer to ancient texts, especially the Bible and classic Greco-Roman literature. Poe even hints he’ll be drawing on “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” in the first stanza. Biblical allusions include the “Tempter” (the devil), heaven, angels, Seraphim, and Aidenn (Eden). Readers will also notice the “balm in Gilead” referring to a biblical cure-all.

As for Greek allusions, one involves “a bust of Pallas,” meaning the goddess Athena, who represents wisdom. Another is “nepenthe,” a plant-based narcotic mentioned in Homer’s The Odyssey , thought to erase memory. Finally, the crow itself carries certain ancient connotations. In Metamorphoses , Ovid writes that the “croaking raven” once had “silver white plumage.” Yet, “Because of his ready speech, he, who was once snow white, was now white’s opposite.” Poe takes up this trope of the chatty raven, yet here the man, and not the raven, undergoes punishment.

Because of the erudite vocabulary, readers may want to read “The Raven” with a dictionary. I’ll give you a head start. “Surcease” means a temporary halt or pause from something. In this case, it’s a pause from sorrow. The word “censer” refers to an incense holder. To “quaff” means to drink with enthusiasm. “Quoth,” means “said” or “spoke,” which our raven does often.

“The Raven” Summary: Poetic Structures

The structure of “The Raven” remains fairly uniform throughout. Eighteen six-line stanzas rely mainly on trochaic octameter. A trochaic foot involves one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable (essentially the opposite of an iambic foot). However, most lines actually end on a stressed syllable, giving the line 7.5 feet, or 15 syllables. (“ Take thy beak from out my heart , and take thy form from off my door !”) Poe borrowed this meter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship.”

Rhyme also reinforces the structure of “The Raven.” Not only does the poem follow the ABCBBB rhyme pattern, but the B lines all rhyme with “nevermore.” (Forgotten lore , chamber door , upon the floor , Le nore …) The rhyme scheme makes the poem catchy, fun to read aloud, and ultimately memorable. It also evokes the sound of an echo, reinforcing the spookiness of the poem’s atmosphere and plot. Internal rhymes (such as “sorrow laden ”/“sainted maiden ”) further this effect and enhances a certain sense of inevitability. This inevitable feeling works to suggest an implicit message in the poem, that death is inescapable and unalterable.

“The Raven” Summary: Poetic Devices

Caesura crops up in “The Raven” when a pause breaks the natural momentum of a line. For example, we see it with “Then , upon the velvet sinking , I betook myself to linking.” Caesura gives the lines and stanzas a prose-like quality we’d find in stories with full sentences. It allows Poe to give himself fully to the act of storytelling, rather than leave us with a more abstract, opaque style of poetry, such as the work of poets like Emily Dickinson .

“The Raven” makes use of other poetic devices as well. We find alliteration in lines like “ D oubting, d reaming d reams no mortal ever d ared to d ream before.” Assonance appears in phrases like, “ e ntreating e ntrance” and “T e mpter/t e mpest.” Epistrophe, or the repetition of the same word at the end of multiple lines, is also present. Then there’s the repetition of whole lines or phrases. My favorite appears in the third stanza, and works on a psychological level. “I stood repeating/“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —/Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door ;—.” In this repetition, we find a perfect example of form fitting function. Anyone who’s tried to reassure themself that nothing is wrong will recognize the inclination to repeat this reassurance. It’s soothing.

Apart from caesura, all of these poetic devices double down on similarities and sameness. They match the repetitive actions of the raven, his rapping and tapping, and his only utterance, “Nevermore.” These various reoccurrences create a haunting, even fateful feeling throughout the poem. Despite the strangeness of a talking raven, it seems as if everything had to happen this way. The reader is therefore hardly shocked when the poem ends with the narrator’s own sense of doom.

“The Raven” Meaning: Themes

We cannot avoid discussing themes of death and grief when looking for “The Raven” meanings. Death appears in the absence of Lenore and in the hope of a reunion in some afterlife. Grief, meanwhile, appears throughout the poem. We might go so far as to say that the mourning narrator embodies grief. Thus, “The Raven” juxtaposes not life and death, but grief and death. It asks the difficult question of how to carry on after losing someone permanently.

Some critics will say that Poe warns readers against the destructive nature of grief. (Don’t forget that the poem ends with the narrator’s soul lying on the floor!) The poem could be read as a cautionary tale: don’t go looking for signs and symbols from someone you’ve lost. Leave the dead alone.

And yet, if we glance at other literature, we’ll notice a pattern. Seeking messages from lost loved ones in the form of a bird is surprisingly commonplace. Perhaps it’s a universal human habit. The ancient Greeks took messages from birds and read the future that way. In contemporary literature, too, birds often appear in moments when someone seeks a message from the dead. (For a few examples, check out Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock and Max Porter’s Grief Is the Thing With Feathers .) Poe, writing in a time when spiritual seances were gaining traction, understood that grief is more bearable when shared. Grief can contain hope. So while readers of “The Raven” may delight in its gloom, others who’ve felt grief may find solace in recognizing and sharing in the narrator’s sorrow.

What’s next?

We hope you enjoyed this article on “Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”: Summary & Meaning.” For helpful guides to reading comprehension, essay writing skills, and more, visit our page on  High School Success . You’ll find links to other literary analyses, such as  The Lottery by Shirley Jackson ,  “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks  and  “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson .

  • High School Success

Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

This essay is about the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe on October 7, 1849. It explores the circumstances leading up to his death, including his discovery in a delirious state on the streets of Baltimore, and his subsequent hospitalization. Various theories about the cause of his death are discussed, including cooping (a form of electoral fraud), rabies, alcoholism, and other possible factors like heart disease or murder. The essay highlights the lack of definitive evidence, noting that Poe’s medical records and death certificate were lost. Ultimately, Poe’s mysterious death adds to his legacy as a master of macabre literature.

How it works

Edgar Allan Poe, a figure shrouded in enigma within American literary circles, departed from this mortal coil under veils of uncertainty that persist to this very epoch. Born unto this world in the annum of 1809, Poe carved a niche for himself through the crafting of tales steeped in macabre and Gothic allure, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” However, the lamentable cessation of his existence in 1849 remains ensconced within a labyrinth of theories and conjectures, rendering it one of the most beguiling unsolved enigmas in the annals of literary chronicles.

Upon the third day of October in the annum of 1849, Poe was discovered in a state of delirium upon the thoroughfares of Baltimore, Maryland. His discovery occurred proximate to a tavern and polling precinct recognized as Ryan’s Fourth Ward Polls, attired in garments ill-suited to his person. This peculiar circumstance has served as fertile ground for myriad speculations regarding the vicissitudes that befell him. Conveyed to the confines of Washington College Hospital, Poe languished in a state of bewilderment and anguish until his eventual demise on the seventh day of October in the same annum. Throughout his sojourn within the confines of the hospital, Poe failed to attain a semblance of coherence adequate for elucidating the circumstances leading to his dire condition, and the corpus of his medical records, inclusive of his death certificate, has regrettably been lost to the mists of time.

A plethora of theories has arisen over the passage of years concerning the precipitate of Poe’s demise. One prevailing conjecture posits that he fell prey to the machinations of “cooping,” a stratagem rife within the electoral milieu of the 19th century. In this practice, individuals were ensnared, rendered inebriate or stupefied, and compelled to engage in multiple instances of suffrage in favor of a specific candidate. This postulation finds support in the circumstance of Poe’s discovery on the day of Election, proximate to a locus of electoral activity, clad in garments foreign to his own visage. Adherents to this theory proffer that Poe’s state of delirium and ensuing demise may have resulted from the repeated administration of inebriating substances.

An alternate hypothesis posits that Poe succumbed to the scourge of rabies. In the year of 1996, Dr. R. Michael Benitez, a practitioner of cardiology, published an exposition within the annals of the Maryland Medical Journal detailing his appraisal of Poe’s symptoms. Benitez proffered the assertion that Poe’s manifestations were commensurate with those characteristic of rabies, noting the occurrence of interludes of serenity punctuated by paroxysms of agitation, a pattern frequently encountered among rabies-inflicted patients. Regrettably, no autopsy was performed, and Poe’s medical records remain replete with lacunae, rendering conclusive substantiation of this diagnosis an impossibility.

Alcoholism has also been mooted as a potential impetus for Poe’s demise. Poe grappled with alcoholism throughout the chronicle of his mortal existence, and certain biographers postulate that his demise was precipitated by a terminal bout of inebriation. This supposition garners support from the testimonies of contemporaries acquainted with Poe, inclusive of his confidant, Dr. John Moran, who attended to him during his final hours. Moran attested to Poe’s conveyance to the hospital in a state of semi-consciousness, and to his evincing manifestations consonant with withdrawal. Nevertheless, other contemporaneous observers, inclusive of Poe’s own physician, Dr. John Carter, demurred from attributing to Poe the status of habitual imbiber.

In addition to the aforementioned theories, others aver that Poe’s demise may have arisen from a confluence of factors, encompassing cardiac maladies, epilepsy, and even homicide. Certain theorists advance the conjecture that Poe may have incurred the enmity of adversaries or rivals who harbored designs for his detriment. The paucity of unequivocal evidence, coupled with the absence of extant medical records pertaining to Poe, consigns the veritable precipitate of his demise to the realm of conjecture.

The denouement of Poe’s mortal saga and the veil of mystery enshrouding his demise have only served to burnish the legend encompassing this maestro of the macabre. His oeuvre endures as a magnet for readers enthralled by its themes of lunacy, mortality, and the occult, while the saga of his mortal sojourn, punctuated by an end enigmatic, mirrors the somber and enigmatic tenor of his literary legacy. Consequently, Edgar Allan Poe remains a figure of inexhaustible fascination, not solely on account of his literary bequests, but also owing to the unresolved conundrums that haunt the precincts of his demise.

In summation, the cessation of Edgar Allan Poe’s mortal existence on the seventh day of October in the annum of 1849 persists as one of the most confounding enigmas in the annals of literary antiquity. Whether he succumbed to the throes of cooping, rabies, alcoholism, or another catalyst, the dearth of conclusive evidence portends that the veritable precipitate of his demise shall forever elude definitive explication. What endures as irrefutable, however, is that Poe’s premature and enigmatic cessation has secured his station as an iconic luminary in the firmament of American letters, his life and oeuvre continuing to beguile and galvanize.


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  1. Analysis "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe Free Essay Example

    college essay edgar allan poe

  2. Edgar Allan Poe Essay

    college essay edgar allan poe

  3. Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: Summary and Analysis Free Essay Example

    college essay edgar allan poe

  4. The Tell Tale Heart

    college essay edgar allan poe

  5. Edgar Allan Poe and Dark Romanticism Essay Example

    college essay edgar allan poe

  6. Essay on edgar allan poe in 2021

    college essay edgar allan poe


  1. Unmasking Edgar Allan Poe

  2. Edgar Wright STYLE

  3. American Short Story / The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe / in Tamil / Bharath Ravindran

  4. Miscellaneous Poe: Poems and Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

  5. The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe

  6. "Histórias Extraordinárias de Edgar Allan Poe", [2019]


  1. Poe as a student

    Edgar Allan Poe at the University. Born in Boston on January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe moved to Richmond just three years later with his mother and infant sister. ... he read an essay on "Heat and Cold" and probably took part in the many lively debates of the term. Although he did not regularly present original work to the Society, he often ...

  2. The Essays, Sketches and Lectures of Edgar Allan Poe

    The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Edmund C. Stedman and George E. Woodberry (Chicago: Stone and Kimball, 1894-1895 — The essays are collected in volume 7 and Eureka will be found in volume 9) The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison (New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1902 — The essays are collected in volume 14 and ...

  3. Edgar Allan Poe, His Life and Literary Career Essay (Biography)

    Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, and playwright. He was born in January 19, 1809 and died in October 7, 1849 (Burlingame 6). Edgar was among the pioneers of creative writing in America. He was proficient in writing short stories and contributed in developing detective fiction style.

  4. Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe (born January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 7, 1849, Baltimore, Maryland) was an American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor who is famous for his cultivation of mystery and the macabre.His tale "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841) initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction.

  5. Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's Stories

    1 reply. During his life, Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) was a figure of controversy and so became reasonably well known in literary circles. Two of his works were recognized with prizes: Manuscript Found in a Bottle and The Gold-Bug. The Raven, his most famous poem, created a sensation when it was published and became something of a best ...

  6. Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe's stature as a major figure in world literature is primarily based on his ingenious and profound short stories, poems, and critical theories, which established a highly influential rationale for the short form in both poetry and fiction. Regarded in literary histories and handbooks as the architect of the modern short story, Poe was also the principal forerunner of the "art ...

  7. Poe, Edgar Allan

    Early Poetry. Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on 19 January 1809, the son of the itinerant actors David Poe Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold, both of whom died when he was still an infant.He was brought up by the Richmond tobacco merchant John Allan, with whom he had a difficult relationship.Educated in London and then, for a brief period, at the University of Virginia, Poe entered the U.S. Army in ...

  8. Edgar Allan Poe: Biography, Writer, Poet

    Edgar Allan Poe was born Edgar Poe on January 19, 1809, in Boston. ... examining his own methodology and writing in general in several essays, including "The Philosophy of Composition," "The ...

  9. Edgar Allan Poe

    Introduction. Born to a gifted actress and a less talented actor, Edgar Allan Poe (b. 1809-d. 1849) was orphaned in 1811 and taken in by the Allans of Richmond. Over time, tensions with John Allan grew, culminating with young Poe's withdrawal from the University of Virginia in 1826 for incurring gambling debts and leading to his 1827 voyage ...

  10. About Edgar Allan Poe

    1809 -. 1849. Read poems by this poet. Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. Poe's father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding ...

  11. PDF EDgar allan PoE in ContExt

    Courtesy of the Harvard College library. 120 12.2 H. Fossette, Park Theatre - Park Row (new york: Peabody and Co., 1832). Courtesy of the Boston athenaeum. ... University, has contributed essays to ANQ, Edgar Allan Poe Review, In-Between, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and Poe Studies. alan brOwn, professor of English at the University ...

  12. Critical essays on Edgar Allan Poe : Free Download, Borrow, and

    Critical essays on Edgar Allan Poe. Publication date. 1987. Topics. Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Criticism and interpretation, Fantasy literature, American -- History and criticism. Publisher.

  13. How Poe's Life Leaked into His Works

    [email protected]. Ellie Quick. Prof. Pittman. American Lit I. November 25th, 2014 How Poe's Life Leaked into His Works. Ask anyone about the author Edgar Allan Poe and most likely everyone will have a. different opinion of him. Opinions on Poe range from a crazy, mad drunk to a genius, classic, thrilling author.

  14. 113 Edgar Allan Poe Essay Topics & Samples

    Edgar Allan Poe: "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado". In this discourse two of his famous short stories, "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado" are studied in an attempt to better understand the use of symbolism, the literary tool of irony, and […] "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe: Poem Analysis.

  15. Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe (né Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, author, editor, and literary critic who is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre.He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism and Gothic fiction in the United States, and of American literature.

  16. Literary Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe

    Poe's most famous tales include The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), and The Cask of Amontillado (1846), and among his notable poems are To Helen, Israfel, The City in the Sea, and The Haunted Palace.His poem The Raven (1842) was widely popular.Some of Poe's radical insights into poetry and criticism are expressed in his essay The Philosophy of Composition (1846), which ...

  17. The Conscious Art of Edgar Allan Poe

    rence's essay in Studies in Classic Ameri-can Literature (1923) was the first in-fluential criticism of this kind. It was soon followed by Joseph Wood Krutch's Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius (1926), and by Marie Bonaparte's Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psy-cho-Analytic Interpretation, the original French version of which was published

  18. Poe's Poetry Essays

    These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Poe's Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Best summary PDF, themes, and quotes. More books than SparkNotes. Study Guides; Q & A; Lesson Plans ... 11007 literature essays, 2769 sample college application essays, 926 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content ...

  19. Edgar Allan Poe Essays

    In his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," Edgar Allan Poe writes that in an ideal poem, "two things are invariably required first, some amount of complexity, or more properly, adaptation; and, secondly, some amount of suggestiveness some... You are on page 1 of 4. GradeSaver offers study guides, application and school paper editing ...

  20. Essays and reviews : Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849

    Essays and reviews ... Essays and reviews by Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849. Publication date 1984 Publisher New York, N.Y. : Literary Classics of the U.S. : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. and Canada by the Viking Press Collection inlibrary; printdisabled; trent_university; internetarchivebooks

  21. Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe . DOI link for Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar Allan Poe. Selected Poems and Essays By Edgar Allan Poe. Edited By C.H ... fewer admire him openly. This volume includes all of his poetry and his most important essays. TABLE OF CONTENTS . chapter | 40 pages Poems . Abstract . chapter | 28 pages Poems Written in Youth . Abstract . chapter ...

  22. Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays: A Library of

    Read throughout the world, translated by Baudelaire, and admired by writers as different as Dostoevsky and H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe has become a legendary figure, representing the artist as obsessed outcast and romantic failure. His nightmarish visions, shaped by cool artistic calculation, reveal some of the dark possibilities of human experience.

  23. Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" Summary & Meaning

    The 19th-century American Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote poems, short stories, and essays. Perhaps you know him already from some of his famous Gothic-inspired stories. These include "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." Then there's his often-quoted poem "Annabel Lee," which inspired Nabokov when writing ...

  24. The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

    Essay Example: Edgar Allan Poe, a figure shrouded in enigma within American literary circles, departed from this mortal coil under veils of uncertainty that persist to this very epoch. Born unto this world in the annum of 1809, Poe carved a niche for himself through the crafting of tales steeped