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Lecture no. 4 An American Renaissance E. A.

. Poe Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was, besides Hawthorne and Melville, another writer interested in psychology and the darker side of human nature. His fiction belongs to the Southern, rather than the New England, writing tradition. It is far more romantic in language and imagery. Both Poes parents had been actors and had died by the time he was three. His bad relationship with his foster father was one of the many instances of unhappiness in his brief life (forty years). Poe made important contributions to American literature in three areas: the short story literary criticism poetry Poes short stories are considered Gothic literature. Although this term originally applied only to stories set in Gothic or medieval period, it has been extended to include a certain type of writing observing the following requirements: first it must set a tone that is gloomy, dark and threatening and then the events that take place must be strange, melodramatic, or evil. In the title of an 1840 edition of his collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque Poe divided his short stories into these two categories, employing such terms which are often used in art, especially painting. Thus, grotesque art involves monsters and wilderness, whereas arabesque art usually involves a complex and geometric pattern. In relation to Poes tales, then, the grotesque could refer to more realistic stories with human interaction (e.g. The Cask of Amontillado and The Purloined Letter), while the arabesque are stories that involve very few people but many ideas, and are frequently set in abstract locations (e.g. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum). Many of Poes tales of horror are known throughout the world. His method was to put his characters into unusual situations; next, he would carefully describe their feelings of terror or guilt. The greatest examples of this kind of story are The Pit and the Pendulum (1841), The TellTale Heart (1843) and The Black Cat (1843). The author here rarely shows the actual object of horror. Rather, the reader must use his imagination. The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) is the best known of Poes tales. It is a successful example of his theory that in short stories, unity of effect is everything. The storys setting and its symbols reveal the character of the hero. A crack in the house symbolizes the relationship between the adult twins, Roderick and Madeline Usher. When Roderick buries his twin sister before she is really dead, she returns to the house from the grave. When Roderick dies, the house sinks into the black lake surrounding it. Poes heroines often return from the grave by various means. In Ligeia (1838) the ghost of the heros first wife returns to life by stealing the body of his second wife. Poe was also one of the creators of the modern detective story. Instead of examining characters and feelings, these stories examine mysteries or problems. Examples include The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842), The Purloined Letter (1845) and The Gold Bug (1843). Except for the last of these, each of the stories has the same hero, the brilliant French detective Monsieur Dupin. This character is one of Poes finest creations. The author shows us how Dupins brilliant mind works. The not very intelligent narrator seems to be as confused by the complicated plot as the reader. This makes Dupins genius seem even greater. In many ways, such a narrator reminds one of Doctor Watson, Sherlock Holmess friend, who narrates the tales about that 1

great detective. Poes detective stories are written in a simple, realistic style. Perhaps this is why they were more popular during his lifetime than his tales of horror. POE the Poet The interest of Poes poetry is in its sound, rather than its content. He constantly experimented with ways to make it musical, and defined poetry as the rhythmic creation of beauty. Even the names he uses have a musical sound: Eulalia, Lenore. In his most famous poem, The Raven (1845), the rhythm allows us to hear the birds beak hitting the door:
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping rapping at my chamber door.

The unhappy young man asks if he will again meet his dead loved one, Lenore. Nevermore! is the repeated, machine-like answer of the big black bird. Consequently, Poe felt that the real goal of poetry is pleasure, not truth. But for him, pleasure did not mean happiness. Rather, a good poem creates in the reader a feeling of gentle sadness. THE RAVEN Edgar Allan Poes The Raven is a repetitive poem about repetition. Within the poem, the repetition
means simply that the speaker is obsessed with the lost Lenore. Once he realizes that the raven will reliably repeat nevermore in response to anything he says to it, he turns the encounter into a perverse game in which the word nevermore reminds him of his grief.

The narrator transforms the bird into both an instrument of self-torture and a symbol of his personal mourning . The poem performs those functions as well through repetition. It is impossible to escape the insistent rhymes internal, external , they are everywhere the thudding trochaic octameter (lines of eight stressed/unstressed beats: ONCE uPON a MIDnight DREARy, WHILE I PONdered WEAK and WEARy), the simple verbal repetitions (followed fast and followed faster; Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!), or the alliteration (this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore), all of which, like the ecstatic pain of grief, both excites and torments the reader.
Edgar Allan Poe manages to

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER The Fall of the House of Usher is a landmark in literary

history. While telling an eerie tale of gothic horror,

echo the literary past, embody contemporary ideas and imagery, and anticipate the development of modernism. This short story, begins as Poes nameless first-person narrator describes how he feels upon approaching
the ancestral mansion of the Usher family where his boyhood friend Roderick Usher lives with his sister Madeline, the last descendants of a formerly grand family. The narrator first sees the house cloaked in shadow and considers it a melancholy sight, but he quickly modifies his reaction: he is overcome by a sense of insufferable gloom.

As he looks at the house, it seems as if around the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity. Capturing the mansion as it appears to the narrator, Poe uses a method of description Nathaniel Hawthorne used so well: he depicts the ambiguity of individual perception. Poes narrator sees the mansion enshrouded with a weird vapor but shakes off that impression and redoubles his efforts in order to perceive the real aspect of the building, which may be best characterized by its profound decrepitude. The gothic imagery that fills The Fall of the House of Usher reflects a style of literature that had emerged during the late eighteenth century and was flourishing in the early decades of the nineteenth. The large mysterious castle filled with dark corners and secret passageways had been an important feature of gothic literature. Poe explicitly aligns Usher with the gothic literature. Upon dismounting from his horse, the storys narrator enters the Gothic archway of the hall. Once inside a valet leads him through many dark and intricate passages. Rodericks comments are a reflection of his illness, which involves a hypersensitivity to any external stimuli. 1 He can eat only the blandest of foods: mulligatawny has no place at his dinner table. He can tolerate the sound of no musical instruments save the quiet strumming of his own guitar. He exists by keeping himself in extreme stasis, by never tr ying anything
new, never experimenting with anything unfamiliar, never leaving his house. He is an exile in time.

Madeline Usher, his sister, is afflicted with a different condition, but one that has much the same result. She is cataleptic 2. She, too, seems trapped in an eternal present, never slipping back into a happier past, never going forward to an eternal future.

An East Indian soup having a meat or chicken base and curry seasoning. A condition characterized by lack of response to external stimuli and by muscular rigidity, so that the limbs remain in whatever position they are placed. It is known to occur in a variety of physical and psychological disorders, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, and can be induced by hypnosis.

Roderick and Madeline possess these afflictions as the narrator arrives. Through much of his time in the mansion, their conditions only intensify. Rodericks sensitivity becomes even more acute. Madelines catalepsy becomes so severe that it seems as if she has
died. Her apparent death introduces a catastrophic element of change to Rodericks life. They entomb her in an ancient vault that forms a part of the dungeons from the feudal past. Entombed below the house, Madeline is removed from the present into the realm of the past. But hers, like those of so many other Poe characters, is a premature burial. She escapes her sepulcher to accost her brother. Her reappearance only precipitates the inevitable. She confronts Roderick, and the two die in each others arms. The narrator flees the house. As he escapes, a huge crack forms in the masonry, and the house collapses into the tarn

E.A. Poes The Masque of the Red Death is a special case of finding symmetry and unity in art. In a famous study of Poes on Hawthorne, he says that there must be in all words the intention, direct or indirect, to follow a purpose settled beforehand. The short story is an impersonal third person narrative in which the author uses heavy symbolism to convey the underlying theme of the story which is the inevitability of death and the futility of trying to escape death. The author indicates that the theme of the story is that death is a certainty and cannot be delayed. The story does not have characters in the proper manner beside Prince Prospero and Death itself. The first line opens with the word death which is going to be the clue word in the story to which Poe adds the determinative red although red is the color of blood, which actually means life. Blood, the very substance of life, becomes the mark of death as it bursts through the pores. Death, as Poe implied from the very beginning, then, is not an outside protagonist to be feared and walled out as Prince Prospero attempts to do; but instead it is a part of each of us. In point of style, one could say that Poes is very new and different for that time. Thus, he uses a lot of short sentences, dashes for the sake of cohesion with parallelism and capitalization as main means of emphasizing: Blood was its Avatar and its seal the redness and the horror of blood. However, Poes using capitalization with the words Avatar, Red Death, Blood, besides being a means of message emphasis, is also a way to draw the readers attention to the fact that they are all personifications of death. In the following paragraphs, Poe conveys a false sense of security with his first description of the abbey and it is due to Poes special technique that the reader can actually see Prince Prosperos abbey by means of Poes suggestive choice of words, which makes it look so big and impressive. After describing the impressiveness of Princes Prosperos abbey, Poe needs to awake his reader from the realm of dream such an abbey might bring out, and to do this he implies that there was no way one could get in or, out of that castle. After the courtiers have entered the abbey, the gates are welded shut which the prince believes is enough to keep the disease of the Red Death out, which is another attempt of Poes to let the reader understand that in fact the whole atmosphere created by the prince is false and that the masqueraders actually seal their fates when they seal the gate to the abbey. Next, Poe encloses the two opposite realities that he compares, i.e. the world outside the gates which was in grief since the pestilence rages most furiously abroad, and the world inside with Prince Prospero organizing a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. The story takes place in seven connected but at the same time carefully separated rooms. A long description of the rooms follows, each one different from the other in colour and placement, having a Gothic window of stained glass which varied in accordance with the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. The seven rooms are laid out from east to west, reminding one of the course of the sun which measures the earthly time. Poe used on the one hand the symbolism of the number seven and on the other hand the symbolism of the colours associated with each of the seven rooms possibly to suggest that the seven rooms represent the seven stages of ones life, from birth to death, through which the Prince pursues a figure masked as a victim of the Red Death, only to die himself in the final chamber of eternal night. (cf. Martha Womack, The Poe Decoder, The rooms are described by using parallelism and colour symbolism as follows: the first was blue, the second purple, the third green, the fourth orange, the fifth white, the sixth violet and the seventh black.

a small mountain lake

The sharp differentiation and description of the last room as compared to all the others gives the reader the feeling that this room is to be of importance later in the story. Its black colour stands for death and destruction on account of the fact that the story is focused on a deadly disease and black is a tangible depiction of the destruction the disease caused. Unlike in the description of the other rooms, Poe uses another symbolic colour to complete the effect caused by black, and this colour is the deep red colour of the windows which are no longer of the same colour as the rest of the room. (cf. Colour Symbolism in Edgar Allan Poes The Masque of the Red Death, Poe also offers a minute description of a gigantic clock of ebony which is another symbol that he uses as a metaphor for death on account of that fact that the clock is the one that decides when death comes by its hourly ringing which is a reminder of the brevity of life and the inevitability of death. (cf. Martha Womack, The Poe Decoder, Bibliography 1. Peter B. High, An Outline of American Literature (Longman Group Limited, 1986) 2. Nicolae, Cristina. Landmarks of American Literature. (Pitesti: Editura Paralela 45, 2006) 3. Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987. 4. Miu, Alina Andreea, The Semantics of Prose Translation. A Case Study: Edgar Allan Poe. Pitesti: Editura Universitii din Piteti, 2008.