What Impact Did Edgar Allan Poe Have On American Literature

What impact did Edgar Allan Poe have on society?

Expert Answers
karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe has been hugely influential in the literary world since he began publishing in the mid-1800s. His texts have served as exemplars of how to use sensory detail and how to establish and evoke mood through description. He also set the standards for Gothic and detective fiction with his famous short stories.

Poe is famous for his ability to create a mood in his literary works, often a sinister and/or foreboding mood. Many of his stories establish suspense and mystery through the mood that he evokes. "The Fall of the House of Usher," for example, opens with a lengthy description of the house and the lake outside the house, which reflects the house in its water. The details given in the first several paragraphs establish the themes of decay and death and set an ominous tone for the story.

Poe's inventive use of language also led him to coin some of his own words. Poe is credited with creating the detective story and as being the best-known contributor to the Gothic tradition in American literature. One could argue that even today's horror movies are influenced by the precedent set by Poe.

In his short stories and poetry, Poe is also known for his interest in psychology. He often portrays unstable and/or unreliable narrators who sometimes descend into madness over the course of the story. As much Gothic literature does, Poe is interested in the way that extreme conditions or traumas might affect a character's psychology and actions. About fifty years later, the Modernist movement in literature would become even further interested in psychology and even try to replicate the way the human mind operates through stream-of-consciousness narrative style.

Poe also served as an influence on famous and accomplished international writers like Jorge Luis Borges, a South American writer known for his magical realism. As a short story writer, Poe established the theory that a good short story should be able to be read in one sitting and that its effect can only be truly felt if all of the details of the story contribute specifically to the plot and theme. Many short story writers have obviously followed his lead, as he was a forerunner in the genre. 

In sum, not only did Poe produce some of the most famous and admired works of American literature that we still teach and read today, he also influenced writers in multiple genres and showed us what it is possible to accomplish in a work of literature. 

seaofknowledge eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Edgar Allen Poe did not enjoy as much fame and wealth as we would expect him to during his lifetime, he was truly a pioneer in the genres of mystery and horror in literature. Much of what we see today on TV and film -- horror films, detective films, and stories -- have been inspired to some extent by Poe's work. So Poe's writing, his stories, have established these genres in American fiction. Since his work was so new and unique in that time frame, not just Americans and Europeans but writers from all over the world were influenced by him and tried writing in these genres.

In the world of literary fiction, Edgar Allen Poe is one of the best. Having said that, many experts believe that because of his morbid and unconventional stories, Poe was often misunderstood by people when he was alive. There are also aspects of his life that we don't know too much about. Edgar Allen Poe died fairly young at only the age of forty in 1849. It has been more than 150 years since his death and students still read his stories in school. Writers of fiction, filmmakers and makers of TV shows still find inspiration from his stories and his style. This in and of itself says so much about the uniqueness and the quality of his writing. His influence over modern writers and makers of motion pictures is sure to continue for a very long time.

In very basic terms, Edgar Allen Poe has influenced which type of stories society will read and watch. He established the genres that are today known as mystery, horror and detective. Considering that the stories we read have an impact on our imagination and taste in literature, I think he has had a strong impact on our society's attitude and opinions about literature.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe had a great impact on society. He was regarded as the writer responsible for creating detective fiction, the horror story, and a master of the short story.

Not only did Poe write, his was a renowned literary critic. He was greatly critical and forced writers to reexamine their own texts. Many writers were influenced by Poe (Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle). Other authors spent years translating his (Poe's) texts into other languages (for example, Baudelaire translated Poe's texts into French--this took him fourteen years).

Overall, Poe's impact on literature was a great one. Students today still study, scrutinize, and dissect his texts. Authors, influenced and impacted by Poe, try to recreate his language, mood, and grasp on readers.