To What Extent Did Edgar Allan Poe's Tragic Life Affect His Work And Dark Romantic Style?

3783 words - 15 pages

Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre which, unlike Transcendentalism, emphasises the shortcomings and weaknesses of humans and their human nature and places a large emphasis upon sinful behaviours and mankind's capacity for evil. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most widely recognised authors of the modern generation and one of the seminal writers of the Dark Romantic style; indeed his catalogue of works have become ubiquitous in collections of literature used for teaching the subgenre and his stories and poems have influenced a plethora of popular culture, including: episodes of ‘The Simpsons’, the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and music such as Bob Dylan's song “Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues” which references “Rue Morgue Avenue”. Poe led an exceptionally tragic life, experiencing the tragic deaths of his loved ones a number of times in his youth and Poe’s work had a constant theme of death and grotesque details, resulting in number of critics, such as Scott Peeples, who refers to Poe as “a tortured romantic artist” (Meyers, 1993), attributing Poe’s Dark Romantic style to his tragic life. Killis Campbell has even gone as far as to suggest that in all of “Poe’s tales[…]the central figure there, however disguised, is always the image of the romancer himself” suggesting that Poe was unable to distance himself from his work (Campbell, 1933). Poe, however, is also credited with inventing the ‘detective’ and ‘science fiction’ genres and did not solely write morbid and grotesque works. There are a number of other factors which might be considered when questioning why Edgar Allan Poe favoured Dark Romantic literature, such as public literary preferences in the nineteenth century and Poe’s desire to prove himself. One must ask, therefore, how Poe came to write such dark, yet brilliant, literature and which other factors may have influenced Poe in to adopting his Dark Romantic style.
Many critics have suggested that Edgar Allan Poe’s tragic life is intrinsically linked to his often Gothic and Dark Romantic style of writing, with Ricardo Marin-Ruiz suggesting: “we can say that the ghastly experiences [Poe] underwent had a certain bearing on [his] literary creations” (Moreno & Aragón, 2010). Undoubtedly, Edgar Allan Poe experienced an extremely turbulent childhood and tragic life; his father abandoned the family when he was still a baby and his mother died when he was two years old. Poe even lost his foster mother, Mrs Allan, and his first wife, Virginia Clemm. Edgar Allan Poe’s life therefore seemed to be permeated with death and misery. It is this lingering theme of death in Poe’s own life that has led many critics, such as Scott Peeples to make connections between Poe’s morbid works and his tragic life. Critics such as J. Gerald Kennedy have alluded to Poe having a “compulsive interest” (Kennedy J. G., 1987) in death, with critics such as John Kaufhold suggesting that Poe was deeply depressed (Kaufhold, 2008). The...

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