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The contribution of author edgar allan poe to the world of literature

Poe's contributions to the short story by Jeremy Hubble April 7, 1996 The world without Poe Perhaps the best way to ponder the contributions of Edgar Allan Poe to the modern short story form is to contemplate a universe in which Poe does not exist. In such a world, Hawthorne would still have produced his collection of Twice Told Tales. English teachers would probably find another author to fill the void by the absence of Poe's stories.

How Did Edgar Allan Poe Influence Literature

So, what did Poe contribute to the development of the short story? One critic summed up his contributions: Edgar Allan Poe, deserves more credit than any other writer for the transformation of the short story from anecdote to art.

He virtually created the detective story and perfected the psychological thriller. He also produced some of the most influential literary criticism of his time--important theoretical statements on poetry and the short story--and has had a worldwide influence on literature. Had Poe not given us his criticism, nor written his stories, literatue would not have evolved to its present-day form.

He helped to pioneer the short story. By using existing and innovative elements, he revolutionized short literature, much like Lucas revolutionized action cinema with his Star Wars.

Edgar Allan Poe

The tale defined Through his criticism, Poe defined the tale and gave us the criteria by which we can judge a well written tale: Edgar Allan Poe was the first to define the genre formally 1842calling it an artistic composition controlled to produce a single unified effect. Poe placed high value on the short story or taleconsidering it, next to the "rhymed poem," the literary form in which the "highest genius" might most advantageously exert its powers.

Its compactness made possible both high excitement in the reader and maximum artistic control by the writer. Defined as a "short prose narrative, requiring from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal," the tale could be read in a single session. Thus, the reader would be absorbed in the story until the end, without any "external or extrinsic influences" disturbing the stories effect.

For the same reason, Poe argued that "a long poem is a paradox. Prose tales are also have a purpose very different than that of poetry. A poem struggles to obtain beauty, through rhythm and other devices.

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This rhythm, however, inhibits the use of many modes of inflection in a poem. Truth, not beauty, is often the aim of a tale. Through the pursuit of this aim, a great deal of options, such as horror, sarcasm, and more are at the author's disposal. In constructing a tale in the Poe fashion, the author first envisions the effect that he wishes to achieve.

Then, he invents incidents that will help him to bring about the desired effect. The author paints the picture of a single incident.

A tale too short fails to create the desired effect.

  • If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents-he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect;
  • He virtually created the detective story and perfected the psychological thriller;
  • It seems as if he was only able to manage his life in fiction;
  • He helped to pioneer the short story;
  • Today, short stories appear routinely only among literary circles.

A tale too long, however, is an even greater evil. For Poe, "in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression is a point of the greatest importance. In the brief period, the reader is held hostage in the world created by the author.

Any longer period of time will result in an interference of the world's affairs, thus destroying the overall effect that the story sought to achieve. Every facet of the tale should be written to help it achieve its preconceived effect of horror, sarcasm, passion, or whatever. In his well-known formulation, if the writer's "very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition, there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.

  • And the people--ah, the people-- They that dwell up in the steeple, All alone, And who, tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone-- They are neither man nor woman-- They are neither brute nor human-- They are Ghouls!
  • In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.

Poe on His Contemporaries For his contemporaries, Poe was very stringent in handing out praise. According to him, only Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne produced short stories that he considered worthwhile.

He had nothing but scorn for the other writers. Through his criticism of Hawthorne, however, we find many details on what Poe considered good and bad in a short story. He was enthralled with the originality he found in Hawthorne's fiction: Hawthorne's distinctive trait is invention, creation, imagination, originality - a trait which in the literature of fiction, is positively worth all the rest.

But the nature of originality, so far as regards it manifestation in letters, is but imperfectly understood.

  1. Thus, instead of picking elements to create a pre-conceived effect, he must create an effect from the already present elements. Oh, from out the sounding cells, What a gust of euphony voluminously wells!
  2. Defined as a "short prose narrative, requiring from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal," the tale could be read in a single session.
  3. For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats, Is a groan.
  4. Hear the loud alarum bells -- Brazen bells!

Hawthorne is original at all points. He felt unable to classify some of Hawthorne's 'tales' as such, classifying them instead as essays. Poe had a great degree of confidence in the short story or tale.

His innovations and use of literary devices help him to earn a place in literature cannons. Through his desire to create an overall effect, he pulls the reader in from his first sentence. His stories deal with basic themes that have endured centuries, such as vengeance, fear of death, and beautiful women. Even his lack of detail helps us to more easily associate with the characters in the stories.

In "The Cask of a Amontillado," we find ourselves immersed a tale of one man's vengeance. The narrator never tells us why he is plotting to entomb Fortunato. That is not important. What is important is the actual plot and action in which we, the read ers actively participate.

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The lack of detail and absence of background information helps drive us to focus on the action The story is short, the pace is fast, and we read eagerly until we reach the end. Any interpretation or any profound message we obtain from the reading is purely our own creation. Unlike the transcendentalists, his writing was not controlled by nature, nor did it emerge spontaneously.

Poe's works were carefully planned out. He controlled his writings. Thus he was able to introduce a great number of literary devices and plot elements to help achieve his preconceived result.

Poe also "borrowed from the older supernatural tales to illustrate psychological complexities, as in 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Having already imagined the end of "Ligeia", Poe was able to craft an elaborate prose poem in which we, the readers, are active participants.

Edgar Allan Poe and his influence on American Literature

Every aspect of the story, down to the character names, were chosen to help attract us to Ligeia while being repulsed by Rowena.

Where would Poe be today? Today, short stories appear routinely only among literary circles.

The novel remains the dominant form of popular fiction. With Calvin and Hobbes collections coming in a close second. The modern novel, however, has much to owe to the standards Poe set for the 'tale'. Popular authors, such as Michael Chrichton, write stories that grab the the contribution of author edgar allan poe to the world of literature with the first page. All sections of the story work together to create a powerful effect on the reader.

Even though written as long novels, the books can almost be thought of as series of interconnected short stories. Like the works of Poe, these works have popular appeal, and even have found there way in to the high school English curriculum. Perhaps even more fitting in the Poe tradition can be found in the various forms of screen-acting. Poe would probably despise television. The constant commercial interruptions destroy the overall effect that the program was seeking to achieve.

Just when the bad guy is about to shoot the good guy, the program breaks for a Cool-Whip commercial. Television series also limit the writer's originality. He becomes forced to use the same characters, using the same amount of time. Thus, instead of picking elements to create a pre-conceived effect, he must create an effect from the already present elements.

The audience is held captive in the theater for the one to two hour movie. The movie has none of the limitations of a stage play, and can take place anywhere, using anything to create a desired audience reaction. The video and sound quality of today virtually surround the audience with sensory impressions.

A well made movie will captivate the audience from the opening scene, and keep it involved until the very end. Even the production of a movie is made with the end result in mind. The musical score, the casting, and filming locations are all chosen to help further the desired effect. Poe's contributions to the short story are similar to the contributions of George Lucas to the modern action film. The things that look like quotes probably are. Unfortunately, my computer has managed to eat all the credits!