"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Monday, January 19, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe at 200

Today would have been Poe's 200th birthday. The Wall Street Journal has a nice piece reflecting on his work. Here's some:

Praise for Poe is by no means universal. The reviews always have been mixed, even on large questions about his legacy. "Enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection," sniffed Henry James.

Yet there can be no doubt that Poe left a deep mark on literature. He invented both the detective story ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue") and the sequel to the detective story ("The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter"). An attraction to new technologies and cutting-edge ideas such as hot-air balloons, mesmerism, and cryptography made him a pioneer of science fiction. He could be a savage critic: "I intend to put up with nothing I can put down," he boasted.

Most important, Poe reshaped the horror story into a tool for probing the darkest corners of human psychology and his own disturbing obsession with death. Early detractors failed to share his vision and accused him of merely aping Gothic thrillers penned by German authors. Poe would have none of it: "I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul -- that I have deduced this terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results," he replied, in a line that neatly sums up his philosophy of fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment