Who was Edgar Allan Poe ?
Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Boston. His parents were actors and they left him when he was a child. His mother died and his father disappeared. He was adopted by a family in Virginia. And when he grow up, he attended Virginia’s university. Next, he was enlisted in the US Army. After that, he published many poetry and novels like Tamerlane and other poems and The Araal. Added to that, he became assistant editor of the Southern Literary and he was published in magazines and as he won a price for Fond in a Bottle.
He married Virginia Clemm, his cousin of 14. He also wrote at the same time, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) But when his wife died, he felt so alone.This sorrowful event may inspired Poe to wrote his famous poetry : The Raven in 1845. Later, he tried to test some drugs in order to find more inspiration, in vain. He also tried to make away for himself but he can’t. Then he died in Washington in 1849.
What was the social context of this period ?
American Revolution broke out, this fact encourage the growth of national literature. Thereby, circulating libraries were appearing everywhere. People read more and tried to find a stable social and religious background. (cf Enlightenment movement) At this time, sciences were more privilegied, thanks to new inventions. The Big Apple became the intellectual center of the countryside. And Poe was considered as the master of novel.
Poe’s literary works
What is a novel ? It’s a short story, with more simple intrigue than in other books and with less characters. Poe was specialized on fantastic style cf Spirits of the Dead (1968) which was translated in French by Baudelaire.
He followed the English Gothic trend which is imported by England : appealing to feelings, emotions and mystery. He spent sometime in London during his childhood so maybe that influenced him ?
Development of Poetry.
Drama thematic, that was not even encouraged at this time, usually being considered improper and immoral. But this strangeness of mind related in his writings made Poe so special.
The Raven (1845)
(click here to listen the poem)
What this poem is about ?
This is a poem is about loneliness and mania of an unnamed narrator (Intern point of view) who was scared about strange facts appearing near his room and keep him can not sleeping back. He believed that he heard the name of his defunct wife whispering « Lenore ». He woke up many times, looking for the source of the tappage but he did not find anyone. He walked near the window and found a Raven, then they try to dialogue together.
That asked us the question of much imagination or mental or psychological illness ?
What is the structure of the poem ?
Nature of text : poem
Register : Fantastic, horror, romantic and Elegiac (celebrating the death of his wife)
Structure : This speech is in verse, divided on 18 stanzas composed for 6 vers, each stanza increasing fear and faintness felt by the reader and anxiety thanks to an elaboration.
We can expect that this beautiful poem is only the consequence of Poe intuition and genius, but not really, Poe wanted to show the Beauty of the Poetry as an Art : « found in the contemplation of beautiful » He firstly search for the perfect metric, agencement, organization. After, he « conceive(d) the proper length for (his) intended poem » He was Looking for a dialogue with non-human being, but animal capable of speech and he choose the Raven (bird of ill omen) Next, he added the « most beautiful topic in the world : a beautiful woman.»
What is the nature of the imagery and what is its effect ?
The Raven : symbol of Death and lost love, the mark of his self-questioning + He is perched near the Pallas Bust of wisdom, the Raven is a messenger who will deliver the narrator of his sinister burden.
Lenore : angel, wife who loved, maybe the mourning of his deceased wife Virginia, theme of losing love, loneliness, melancholy cf dark atmosphere.
Lexical champ of sadness, sorrow and despair : « Nevermore » is the only thing the Raven said (it would be also his name) : self-torture // demons.
Lexical champ of Religion (God, Eden, Angel, Bible)
Lexical champ of fantastic atmosphere : wind, dream, darkness, angel, ghost, Raven (like in Snow white story) and Plutonian Night cf god of Death (Pluto in Roman Mythology)
What is the message of the author ?
Contemplation of the Beauty : Poetry as an Art
To be free of his own demons cf memories
Love and Death : beautiful paradox who fascinate mankind cf vampires, thinking of Death tortures our lives. Lenore love who haunted narrator spirit and obsessed him :: devotion for a dying love
Loneliness : time goes by, Raven will fly away and leave narrator alone.
Lose of hope because narrator needs to have a confidence to someone.
This poem was an immediate success in Poe time : answer to the Spleen, all readers can identify themselves. (love, reflexion, sadness) It Show the atypical way of thinking of Poe, who undeniablely marked the poetry in the whole world thanks to his fluent style, metaphorical writing and mysterious climax (gloomy imagination)
He is the Master of Fantastic style, precursor of police plot and his writings led us to think about the importance of psychoanalysis, subconscient messages and symbol science when we read (cf Da Vinci Code) Poe was an important figure in the U.S. and also in France (cf Baudelaire) And he stayed a source of inspiration in another fields (not only the literature) : like pictorial art, music and cinema cf Tim Burton Short-movie.
– An introduction to American literature, Françoise Grellet
– The cultural guide Anglais, Françoise Grellet
– La culture générale, histoire, géographie, art et littérature pour les nuls, F. Braustein et J.F. Pépin
– Barnaby Rudge (1841), Charles Dickens
– Da vinci code (2003), Dan Brown
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