Critical Insights: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

Critical Insights Series

The series focuses on an individual author's entire body of work, a single work of literature, or a literary theme.

At a Glance
  • 1 Volume; 300 Pages
  • 10-14 essays offering Current Critical Analysis by Top Literary Scholars
  • Introductory Essay by the Editor
  • Chronology of Author's Life
  • Complete List of Author's Works
  • Publication Dates of Works
  • Detailed Bio of the Editor
  • General Bibliography
  • General Subject Index
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Edited by Steven Frye

This volume in the Critical Insights series brings together a variety of perspectives on Poe's poetry and poetics. Frye opens the volume with a reflection on Poe's aesthetics, and Juliet Lapidos, writing for The Paris Review, offers a consideration of Poe's distinctive contribution to American poetry.

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Editor: Steven Frye,
Professor of English, California State University,
September 2009 · 1 volume · 304 pages · 6"x9"

Includes Online Database with Print Purchase
ISBN: 978-1-58765-616-3
# of Pages: 304
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $105
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e-ISBN: 978-1-58765-617-0
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In-depth critical discussions of Edgar Allan Poe's work - Plus complimentary, unlimited online access to the full content of this great literary reference.

A collection of sixteen essays by leading scholars examining the short stories and life of the 19th century American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Representing the best of a broad range of critical perspectives from the psychoanalytical to the postcolonial, the volume serves as an excellent introduction to Poe's tales and the critical conversation surrounding them. The volume is introduced by Steven Frye, Professor of English at California State University, Bakersfield, the author of Historiography and the American Romance: A Study of Four Authors (2001) and the editor of Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism: History, Theory, Interpretation (2008).

Original essays illuminate the influences that shaped Poe, contextualize his work, and assess his enduring impact on American and Continental poetry and fiction. A sketch of the historical and cultural forces surrounding Poe illuminates their influence on his aesthetic; a reception history examines Poe's enduring contributions to the short story genre, the French Symbolist movement, and modernist aesthetics; a comparison of Poe's and Baudelaire's works reveals how the two authors exploited the duplicitous possibilities within the writer-reader relationship; and a critical reading of "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Black Cat," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Ligeia," and "Bernice" seeks to expose the stories' unifying aesthetic principles.

Further, a varied selection of critical views offers detailed analyses of Poe's most essential tales like "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Gold Bug," and "Ligeia." Uniquely, the collection also contains an original essay by Nathaniel Rich, senior editor of The Paris Review. Reflecting on Poe's insight into and fascination with the perverse instincts of humanity, Rich offers a writer's perspective on one of America's most enigmatic writers.

Finally, a wealth of reference material, including a complete list of Poe's publications and a full biography, rounds out the volume by giving readers ample sources for continuing their studies.

Edited and with an introduction by Steven Frye, the collection is a gateway into the best of Poe and his critics.

Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:

A chronology of the author's life
A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
A general bibliography
A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
Notes on the individual chapter authors
A subject index

From "About This Volume"
This collection of essays contains a rich variety of perspectives on the tales of one of the most important American writers of the nineteenth century, an author whose work has influenced subsequent literary artists in multiple traditions. The first section of the volume contains a series of essays, recently written, that balance text, context, and influence in order to orient readers to the aesthetic features of Edgar Allan Poe’s short fiction, as well as to chart the various strands of his influence in America and abroad. The second section contains a comprehensive array of important essays, republished here, that have served to define Poe studies in the last three decades. These critical treatments, written by many of the foremost scholars in the field, address a host of essential issues, from genre and experimentation to race and sociopolitical concerns. In addition, the volume contains a chronology of the author’s life, a comprehensive list of his works, and a brief biography by Charles E. May, as well as a bibliography, an index, and a perspective fromThe Paris Reviewprovided by Nathaniel Rich. I have also written a brief introduction to the volume dealing primarily with Poe’s contribution to literary aesthetics, especially as it relates to subsequent art movements and his own concept of the tale.

In the “Critical Contexts” section that begins the collection, Jeff Grieneisen and Courtney Ruffner account for the author’s influence, as well as his continuing relevance and popularity, through an exploration of Poe’s experimental work with various genres. Susan Amper offers a wealth of historical context to explore his contribution to the early development of the short story, as well as his initial pre-modern forays into psychological issues. Emphasizing Poe’s influence on Charles Baudelaire, Matthew Bolton explores his use of point of view in transforming the relation of writer and reader, which initiates a formal practice in the short story that continued into the twentieth century. Finally, Santiago Rodríguez Guerrero-Strachan considers Poe’s fantastic tales, particularly in the blending of genres and a confluence of varying styles and elements of tone.

The “Critical Readings” section presents republished essays from eminent scholars specializing in Poe and in American Romantic narrative broadly construed. John Cleman, J. Gerald Kennedy, J. O. Bailey, Robert Shulman, and Elena V. Baraban deal with issues of normal and abnormal psychology, as they explore Poe’s inquiry into the power and limitation of human reason. J. Woodrow Hassell, Jr., Ronald Bieganowski, and Cynthia S. Jordan analyze the role of genre, aesthetics, and style, often as they relate to a dense interiority of character. In the volume’s final essay, Maurice S. Lee considers the racial implications of Poe’s tales, particularly as they bear upon genre formation and aesthetic practice. In each of these fine treatments, Edgar Allan Poe emerges as an author densely rooted in literary tradition, consciously concerned with recasting previous forms, all in the context of an incisive inquiry into the human mind and its relationship to the perceivable world.

Virtually any genre or thematic concern in Poe’s short fiction is addressed by one or more of the essays in this volume. I join my colleagues in expressing the hope that the reader will gain a renewed appreciation for the formal intricacy, psychological intensity, and social relevance of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales.