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Edgar Allan Poe - Life and works

He’s a very important poet, and also the inventor of short fiction, the one who theorized the structure of the short story and the effects it has to give to the reader. He wrote only short stories except for a work: The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Short stories are in his opinion totally different from novels, in fact they should concentrate on single effects. The reader shouldn’t be disturbed and should try to catch this single effect, by a quick reading. He was more influencing in Europe, especially in France than in the USA. In the US he’s an obscure writer, he’s best known for his journalism. He was discovered in France and Europe thanks to the evaluation and translation of his works by Baudelaire (translated short stories), Mallarmé (translated poetry) and Rimbaud. This poets are the French symbolists and so we can think of Poe as a sort of forerunner of the symbolist movement. This poets are part of the so called “poètes maudits” and with them Poe shares features of work and biographical elements: experiencing extreme situations and conditions, such as alcohol and using drugs (and this was one reason why he was very famous among these poets, but not the only one, in fact literary ones too). He lives only 40 years and the causes of his death are obscure. He’s found lying in a corner of Baltimore, he’s brought to an hospital and there he dies after two days without regaining consciousness. In those days there were ideas about his death, brought up by newspapers: one was that he dies of cerebral fever and other were about alcohol, but the all of them was built to hid references to drugs.

Allan Poe has a life of gentle poverty: he has a dignified life, even if he has sometimes to do some efforts. When his tales are published he neither receive money for them, he’s paid by giving a number of copies of the book; he’s instead paid for his journalism works. His mother dies one year later the father has abandoned them when Edgar is only 2. His real father’s name, Poe, is from Ireland. The family that adopts him (even if they never did it legally), the Allan, comes from Scotland and he’s also educated there for 5 or 6 years. He tries university, but he’s expelled because of his behavior, because of gambling. Then he tries military career, and joins one of the most prestigious military academies: the West Point Academy, but he’s dismissed with dishonor. The Allan now don’t want to deal with him. When he’s 26 he marries his cousin Virginia who is only 13 years old. This is a very important event for his life, because a period of peace starts and he’s now able to dedicate to the writing and he also manages to get paid for his works; but then Virginia dies on consumption (tuberculosis). After this event he’s obsessed by the idea of the death of beautiful and young women, and this element is often found in his works. For example in The Philosophy of Composition he writes “ the death of a beautiful woman is undoubtedly the most poetical topic in the world”. His stories are published in two different volumes: Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque (1840)and Tales (1845). There are two different kind of stories: detection stories and supernatural, horror stories. The detection stories are filled with ratiocination and are the first examples of detective stories. The protagonist of these stories is a French amateur detective called Augusto Dupin, forerunner of the many amateur detectives that will be famous in the next years in literature, such as Sherlock Holmes.

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