Edgar Allan Poe Poe, Edgar Allan (Short Story Criticism)

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(Short Story Criticism)

Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849

American short story writer, novelist, poet, critic, and essayist.

The following entry provides an overview of Poe's short fiction works. See also The Raven Criticism, The Cask of Amontillado Criticism, The Tell-Tale Heart Criticism, The Fall of the House of Usher Criticism, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym Criticism, Edgar Allan Poe Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Edgar Allan Poe Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism.

Poe's stature as a major figure in world literature is primarily based on his ingenious and profound short stories and his critical theories, which established a highly influential rationale for the short form in both poetry and fiction. Regarded in literary histories and handbooks as the architect of the modern short story, Poe is also deemed to be the originator of such genres as the detective story, the horror tale, and the science fiction story. In his work, Poe demonstrated a brilliant command of technique as well as an inspired and original imagination.

Biographical Information

Poe's father and mother were professional actors who at the time of his birth were members of a repertory company in Boston. Before Poe was three years old both of his parents had died, and he was raised in the home of John Allan, a prosperous exporter from Richmond, Virginia. In 1815 Allan took his wife and foster son, whom he never formally adopted, to visit Scotland and England, where they lived for the next five years. While in England, Poe spent two years at the school he later described in the story “William Wilson.” Returning with his foster parents to Richmond in 1820, Poe attended the best schools available and began to write poetry. At the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Poe distinguished himself academically, but as a result of bad debts and inadequate financial support from Allan, he was forced to leave after less than a year. This discord with his foster father deepened on Poe's return to Richmond in 1827, and soon afterward Poe left for Boston, where he enlisted in the army and published his first poetry collection, Tamerlane, and Other Poems: By a Bostonian (1827). The book went unnoticed by readers and reviewers, and a second collection was only slightly more conspicuous when it appeared in 1829. That same year Poe was honorable discharged from the army, having attained the rank of regimental sergeant major, and, after further conflict with Allan, he entered West Point. However, because Allan would neither provide his foster son with sufficient funds to maintain himself as a cadet nor give the consent necessary to resign from the academy, Poe gained a dismissal by ignoring his duties and violating regulations. He subsequently went to New York, where his book Poems, By Edgar A. Poe was published in 1831, and then to Baltimore, where he lived at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Clemm. Over the next few years Poe's first stories appeared in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, and his “MS. Found in a Bottle” won a cash prize for best story in the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. In 1835 Poe returned to Richmond to become editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, bringing with him his aunt and his cousin Virginia, whom he married in 1836. The Southern Literary Messenger was the first of several magazines Poe would direct over the next ten years and through which he rose to prominence as one of the leading men of letters in America. While Poe's writings gained attention in the late 1830s and 1840s, the profits from his work remained meager, and he was forced to move several times in order to secure employment that he hoped would improve his situation, editing periodicals in Philadelphia and New York. After his wife's death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe became involved in a number of romances. As he was preparing to marry Elmira Shelton, Poe, for reasons unknown, arrived in Baltimore in late September of 1849. On October 3, he was discovered in a state of semi-consciousness; Poe died on October 7 without...

(The entire section is 104,914 words.)