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Dramatic Energy, Symbolism And Emotion In Fuseli's The Nightmare And Poe's The Raven

759 words - 4 pages

The dawn of the Romantic era saw a departure from the structure confines of Neoclassicism. Instead, emotionalism, love of freedom, and imagination prevailed throughout literature and art. One early work of this period was The Nightmare, an oil painting by Henry Fuseli. In this work, Fuseli portrays a woman sprawled sleeping on her bed, haunted by an incubus and a ghost-like horse with glowing eyes. The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, is instead from the latter end of the Romantic era. This narrative poem recounts a scene in which a raven visits a mourning, distraught lover, who serves as the narrator. Both of these works display dramatic presentation, symbolism, and a great sense of ...view middle of the document...

In The Nightmare, Fuseli depicts two creatures ominously surrounding the sleeping woman. Both, a ghost-like horse with flaming eyes and an incubus, have a vague and fantastical appearance. These figures appear to symbolize the terror and horror of human imaginings and dreams. Fuseli was the first artist to attempt to depict human consciousness, and this penetration into human thought became common in the Romantic period. In The Raven, Poe uses the Raven to symbolize the grief and painful memory of the deceased. This frightful bird haunts the narrator, and as the raven sits above his door casting down a shadow, he writes "And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/ Shall be lifted—nevermore!" The narrator is trapped in the sorrowful memory of Lenore. These living forms in both Poe's and Fuseli's works serve to further enliven the themes of terror and to enhance the emotional poignancy of the works. Each captures the dread and discomfort of some human thoughts and emotions.
Furthermore, emotional poignancy in The Nightmare and The Raven captures the reader's or viewer's sentimentality. The deformed and disgruntled form of the incubus and his fiendish facial expression is horrifying. Similarly, the horse with its flaming eyes and almost grinning...

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