Does the tale "The Fall of the House of Usher" prefigure the novels consciousness of the late 19th century?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allen Poe wrote "The Fall of the House of Usher" in the early nineteenth century, in 1839. The story is an example of the Gothic horror novel. The first Gothic story is generally acknowledged to be The Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole in 1765. Ann Radcliffe, who holds the greatest fame for early Gothic novels, published her first novel, The Castles of Athlin, in 1789. Poe began publishing in the Gothic tradition some fifty years later, but "The Fall of the House of Usher" is still considered to be an early example of the Gothic novel. As such, "The Fall of the House of Usher" does prefigure the later emergence of more Gothic short stories and novels, e.g., Dracula, written by Bram Stoker in the late nineteenth century, in 1897.

In addition to this, Poe stated that his writing was a reaction against the "Didactic" writing of his day that emphasized a moral. Poe asserted that literature should be "art for art's sake," and espouse no moral. This philosophy and motto was taken up as a rallying cry by the later Aesthetic movement (beginning between 1879 and 1900) championed by Keats and Shelly and in opposition to the moral utilitarianism of Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin. "The Fall of the House of Usher," as it embodied Poe's belief in art for art's sake, it can therefore be said to prefigure the later Aesthetic movement.

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The Fall of the House of Usher

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