Who is credited with being the greatest and most influential writer of short fiction in the Romantic era?Who is credited with being the greatest and most influential writer of short fiction in the...

Who is credited with being the greatest and most influential writer of short fiction in the Romantic era?

Who is credited with being the greatest and most influential writer of short fiction in the Romantic era?

Asked on by aacaboo

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Considering all the basic elements of Romanticism, I'll have to go with Hawthorne, but Poe certainly executed an excellent literary left turn and directed American Romanticism into the darkness of the Gothic tale. Hawthorne and Poe both employed supernatural events, and their short stories share some other common Romantic elements, but Hawthorne's work offers a wider and deeper perspective into the human spirit. Poe's exploration of human nature is singular and limited, since that was not his purpose. His theory of the short story did not lend itself to developing dynamic, complex characters.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This rarely ever happens in these kinds of discussions--virtual agreement on only three names.  Hawthorne, Irving, and Poe are undoubtedly the top three writers of the era you mention.  I'd add Melville to the list for that time, though both Irving and Melville have fallen much lower in both readership and recognition than the two others.  I say, then, it's Poe and Hawthorne--and Poe clearly wins in terms of longevity and readability. 

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Poe wins because he has mastered suspense. Of the era, the other choices are warm and fuzzy. They make us feel good, but that doesn't always keep us reading. With Poe, we wonder who is going to die, and how, and what he means by what he says. Does he have a greater message for society, or is it just a thriller? I can't think of a better author to present you with.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Hawthorne also has some very good short fiction.  I love his stories "The Birthmark" and "The Minister's Black Veil." 

I also cast my vote for Poe...so many stories of his I love, love, love!  Irving, too, has written some wonderful Faustian tales which captivate the reader.  So many from which to choose...but you've got some good pointers from the above posts.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Irving, Hawthorne, and Poe paved the way for other writers.  Poe's horror tales created the paradigm for future writers such as detective story writers and Stephen King.  His tales also spawned Magical Realism, and his poetry was extremely innovative and novel.  As #5 mentions, he taught American writers much that is yet valuable in fiction and in poetry.  In his "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe contends that the aim of a poem "is the soul, not the intellect."

Hawthorne introduced the American novel to the world with its symbolism and authentic American thought.  And, of course, Irving is credited with generating the American short story.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

For me it would have to be a tie between Poe and Hawthorne - with probably Poe just inching past the finish line, I think. Certainly his stories have stellar qualities that manage to terrify and shock in an amazing way. I also think the way he uses point of view to narrate tales is fascinating. His use of setting, too, is masterful, in how it suggests horror and sinister qualities. Hawthorne has produced some excellent short stories too, but perhaps is more famous for his novel, Scarlet Letter.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I too would vote for Edgar Allan Poe.  I think that part of his influence comes from the fact that he wrote literary criticism trying to explain the qualities and characteristics of successful short fiction.  He is credited with the idea that a good short story can be read in a single sitting and that all of the literary elements of the story will contribute to what he calls "the single effect."  The effect can be the theme and whatever else the reading is experiencing at the end of the reading.  He speaks in praise of the short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would be high on the list of great short story writiers, but he clearly demonstrates the success of the "single effect" in his own stories.

If you consider "The Tell-Tale Heart" as an example, every detail matters to the eventual outcome.  Poe creates an atmosphere of mystery and suspense through the drawn out telling of the murderers actions of just opening the door of the old man's room.  We read, as anxious as the murderer, to see if the old man's blue "vulture eye" will be open yet again.  We don't know much about the two characters, but that wouldn't necessarily contribute to the single effect, which in the end, is the overwhelming guilty conscience of the murderer.  The details of his plan to kill the old man, the actual actions of the murder and hiding of the body, the drawn out police questioning all make us hold our breath to see if the man can keep it together or if he falls apart.  Once the heart beat is heard/imagined the pace of story accelerates and in the end we are entralled with how the murderer completely unravels and admidts his guilt.  We are relieved that the story and the suspense are over.  Every choice by Poe contributes to those reactions in the end. 

So many of his stories do this well -- he clearly earns a spot at the top of the list.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If you are referring to the American Romantic era, Washington Irving would fit as the most influential writer of short American Romantic fiction. Irving is the first American writer to be popular in Europe, and his short stories are some of the first to be distinctly American (as far as setting and idiosyncrasies). His use of  supernatural elements, morals, and a folk-tale style make Irving's work  Romantic. Irving's best-known stories, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" serve as specific examples of his reliance on Romantic elements and his satirizing of American (and some European) issues. While Dark Romantics like Poe and Hawthorne might be more popular now, some literary critics claim that Irving paved the way for those authors' work to be more widely accepted. 

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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If we are focusing on short fiction, I would agree with the suggestion of Edgar Allan Poe. In many circles he is considered the "father of the short story" because of his emphasis that all elements of a short work of fiction should all contribute to a "singular effect." Namely for Poe, that singular effect was either suspense or horror. We also see this same idea at work in many of the detective stories Poe penned featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin. These stories were precursors and a direct influence on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation of Sherlock Holmes.

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I would first go with Edgar Allan Poe. The other big name that leaps to my mind is Herman Melville, who wrote some very powerful short fiction, but the influence of Poe's short fiction is more extensive. Poe had tremendous influence on later writers through his short fiction, his poetry, and at least one important essay, "The Philosophy of Composition."

There are other candidates, too, I'm sure. A lot might depend on how you define "the Romantic era" and whether you're focusing just on American literature or are looking at anything written anywhere in the world. If you included Germany, for example, and were okay with editors (or collectors) instead of just authors, the clear winner to my mind would be the Brothers Grimm.

aacaboo's profile pic

aacaboo | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

I would first go with Edgar Allan Poe. The other big name that leaps to my mind is Herman Melville, who wrote some very powerful short fiction, but the influence of Poe's short fiction is more extensive. Poe had tremendous influence on later writers through his short fiction, his poetry, and at least one important essay, "The Philosophy of Composition."

There are other candidates, too, I'm sure. A lot might depend on how you define "the Romantic era" and whether you're focusing just on American literature or are looking at anything written anywhere in the world. If you included Germany, for example, and were okay with editors (or collectors) instead of just authors, the clear winner to my mind would be the Brothers Grimm.

Poe was the first to come to mind for me as well. Thanks.

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