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About edgar allen poe essay


notmysuitcase 1 / -  
Jan 9, 2009   #1
I'm not sure if my point for the essay is clear, but I guess I'm asking for just criticism first, and then I can explain where I got the idea for doing it after.

Edgar Allen Poe is often revered as a writer who thoroughly understood madness, and is almost as frequently suspected as suffering from it himself. His nearly exclusive use of horror, gore and death as the dominant themes in his literary works seems to support this allegation. My suspicion, however, is that Poe was perfectly sane through out all of life; I look past this false guise of insanity and see Poe for the man he truly was - an immature, attention-seeking shock writer.

Poe's stunted development was inevitable: the untimely deaths of all the people that he loved in conjunction with (I believe) a lifelong sense of self-pity could only lead to a sophomoric distaste to all life offered. This rejection of the pursuit of happiness, in turn, bred a feeling of being "misunderstood" by society. Poe's writings lead one to assume that he felt different from other people, singular, and unable to relate with, "From childhood's hour I have not been/As others were; I have not seen/As others saw; I could not bring/My passions from a common spring." This idea of himself as unique in his sufferings as he exemplified in "Alone," prevented Edgar from writing anything of any true substance, reserving him to the lowly art of shock writing.

The literary products of Poe follow a formula incorporating shock and sophistication. The subject he chooses to write about is always one that is appalling to the public, and he passes it off as poetic with a blazoning of enticing words. In the violent short story, "Berenice," Poe describes Egaeus, severe monomaniac obsessed with the teeth of his dying cousin, Berenice. Poe narrates a life of misery which is only satisfied when the presumably dead Berenice's teeth are torn out. "...And from it, with a rattling sound, there rolled out some instruments of dental surgery, intermingled with thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances that were scattered to and fro about the floor." I am not fooled by Poe's execution of pervasive vocabulary as a facade for genius! His writings are an attempt to disguise vulgarity as beauty, and that ultimately, his oeuvre lacks real substance. Edgar Allen Poe is nothing more than an artful adolescent - if stripped of shock tactics and an elevated style, Poe's works are reduced to nothing. I conclude that the substance in his short stories and poetry is entirely nonexistent.

Then again, I'm in no position to chastise shock writing.
EF_Constance - / 143  
Jan 9, 2009   #2
Poe narrates a life of misery, which is only satisfied when the presumably dead Berenice's teeth are torn out. "...And from it, with a rattling sound, there rolled out some instruments of dental surgery, intermingled with thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances that were scattered to and fro about the floor." (CITE THIS AS WELL!)

I LOVE IT! I always loved Poe's work, and I agree with you. I definitely do not think that he suffered the mental craziness that people deem him worthy of having. Like Hitchcock, I think that he just was able to write and create stories that shocked people.... shows sanity to me... just a great sense of "GOTCHA!"
earthtojm 2 / 9  
Jan 9, 2009   #3
Wow, why thank you! Although my only problem is that Poe can be a very touchy topic as he is placed in such high regards by many, and even though I do agree with my statements, I included that last line, "Then again, I am in no position to chastise shock writing" to give it a somewhat satirical tone (think a Swift's Modest Proposal) as if I my essay was written for shock value as well. Then on the other hand, however, could it be considered just a cop out?
EF_Constance - / 143  
Jan 9, 2009   #4
Personally, I would take it out. None of my professors liked comments like that, but if you feel drawn to say it, then say it! Is this just an essay for a class you are in or for something else? Do you have a word count? Do you have a works cited page?

You did a great job! Good luck!
earthtojm 2 / 9  
Jan 10, 2009   #5
I got a book today with both the poem and short story for the citation; I just wasn't sure if it was necessary before only because it was obviously written by Poe, but thanks. Thanks also for the reassurance about the last sentence because that was my main hesitation. The essay is for class, but I was considering submitting it for one of my college essays, seeing several colleges need two essays and I have one personal and then this is "topic of my choice" and since I'm planning on going into something like journalism or English, I thought it would be appropriate.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jan 10, 2009   #6
I conclude that the substance in his short stories and poetry is entirely nonexistent.

I think you are right to have reservations about criticizing Poe.

To what could a reader take more offense
Than an essay whose writer bashes Poe, and thence,
Proceeds to belittle his art,
He can shock and scare, with sing-song rhythm,
And grope around the reader's heart
But you, with your allegation,
You thesis-insult-perturbation,
Your essay shows a lack of appreciation,
For the ability to tap into the craziness that we all share and write something that is crazy enough to be worthy of this nightmarish experience we are having as humans born into a body and seeing other bodies dying, it is a crazy place, and shocking, vulgar poetry is important and meaningful.

You can make a powerful argument if you make it a bit more complicated: Figure out a way to celebrate the SACREDNESS of the artful adolescent.

:)

Also, how does this make sense: This idea of himself as unique in his sufferings as he exemplified in "Alone," prevented Edgar from writing anything of any true substance, reserving him to the lowly art of shock writing.

Whoever said shock writing was a lowly art? What is the connection between him feeling like his suffering was unique and the alleged inability to write anything of substance?
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jan 10, 2009   #7
The problem with this sort of essay is that it's thesis is almost certainly wrong from the outset -- many, many writers have written stories meant to shock and horrify the reader. Most, apart from those by contemporary authors, are not now widely read, except in selected English classes. Yet Poe's work endures, and is widely read by contemporary readers, even outside of academia. That sort of staying power strongly implies that his work does in fact do something special.

Worse, how can you possibly conclude in an essay this short that "Edgar Allen Poe is nothing more than an artful adolescent - if stripped of shock tactics and an elevated style, Poe's works are reduced to nothing. I conclude that the substance in his short stories and poetry is entirely nonexistent." To prove that, you would have to go through every one of his works and show that everything good and literary that has ever been alleged about each one is contingent in some way upon his shock tactics and style. And even then, all you would prove is that no one has yet found anything appealing about his works apart from those two things, not that no one ever could (it is very difficult to prove a negative).

Also, if by "shock tactics" you mean the content of his work, then you are essentially saying that, if we ignore the content and style of Poe's work, then there's not much to it. But, if we ignore both the content and style of any author, what is left of his or her work?

Your essay, as your conclusion seems to acknowledge, mostly appears calculated to keep the reader's interest by fronting a shocking thesis that will offend virtually all of your readers (as people who don't like Poe probably won't be reading essays about him). You might want to consider writing an essay that says something substantive and provable about his work. So, if you think he relies heavily on shock tactics, look at examples of shock tactics in his work, and see if you can see patterns that would allow you to say something about the way he uses them that you could actually prove in an essay of this length.
earthtojm 2 / 9  
Jan 11, 2009   #8
So do you think i could make this into a more clear satire about shock writing, or shall I just rewrite the entire thing?
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jan 12, 2009   #9
You could rewrite it as satire on shock writing in general, using examples from Poe to back up some of your points, but then you would need to add examples from other authors too, which would involve major rewriting, as well as likely putting you off topic. I'd consider looking more closely at how Poe uses shock tactics. You could even argue that Poe's shock tactics underlie a lot of the suspenseful elements of his work. Just don't leap to the conclusion that his work therefore has no literary merit.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jan 12, 2009   #10
The easiest thing to do might be to change the thesis to say something about why readers enjoy this kind of writing... you might take inspiration from iws.ccccd.edu/jdoleh/English%201301/Why%20We%20Crave% 20Horror%20Movies.pdf

That will help you to write about that which is significant about Poe, which is that people love his work!! And the article by King might be another good reference to use. :)

Good luck!!!
silverystars 14 / 105  
Jan 26, 2009   #11
Shock and sophistication is a mixture that can so easily be either loved or loathed, but the point is it does draw our interest. The reward for that lies within the reader alone.


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