|I. Biographical Background
2. Jane Stanard (idealized mother of a school friend), who died insane at age 28 ("To Helen")
3. Frances Allan (his foster mother)
B. 1831 marked a transition year: moved to Baltimore (1831-1835); wrote "Israfel," "Romance," "To Helen"
2. From 1831-41 Poe experienced a radical change; his works involved the theme of death as a finality in a cosmic void of darkness and silence.
b. "The Fall of the House of Usher" appeared in September, 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine
c. December 1839: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
III. Types of Works
A. Parallels with Coleridge
2. music is an essential element in poetry
3. beauty is the sole province of the poem
4. poetic beauty has the quality of strangeness
5. poem must have unity of effect
6. true poem must be brief
7. passion and poetry are discordant
8. tone of the poem must be melancholy
2. "The Fall of the House of Usher" hinges on questions of self-identity and the powers of the mind for restoration" (Cambridge Literary History 659). In German Romantic theory, the sublime derived precisely from the power of the mind over nature; one of its essential qualities is the presence not only of appreciation of nature's beauty but awe in its presence. The true sublime contains an element of fear, of the possibility of danger that resides in nature.
In "Usher," the narrator's utter depression allows no sense of the "visionary" qualities of dreariness that so powerfully moved Wordsworth . . . In this story the pattern of differentiated repetition shows the power of things, the consciousness of urban fragmentation against which Wordsworth was writing, but from within which Poe writes."
3. Poe: "As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him."
2. confrontations with mysterious presences
3. extreme states of being
4. dehumanization and its cure
5. relation of body and soul
6. memory of and mourning for the dead
7. need for spiritual transcendence and affirmation.
2. That it is best to live in hopes that love can transcend death.
3. That one must apprehend the possibility of beauty beyond the grave.
Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817): p. 172. "A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to works of science by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; and from all species (having this object in common with it) it is discriminated by proposing to itself such delight from the whole as is compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part."
B. A fierce opponent of literary plagiarism, Poe claims originality for his stanza form in "The Raven": trochaic rhythm; octameter acatalectic alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in refrain of fifth verse.
This form was used by Elizabeth Barrett (Browning) in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship"; Poe had dedicated "The Raven" to her because he had admired "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" for its "fierce passion" and "delicate imagination."
Of Poe, Barrett said,"There is poetry in the man, though, now and then seen between the great gaps of bathos. . . the "raven" made me laugh, though with something in it which accounts for the hold it took upon people."
B. Symbolic raven parallels Coleridge's albatross, Shelley's skylark, Keats's nightingale.