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The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe


  • Page extent: 146 pages
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521676915)

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The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe
Cambridge University Press
9780521859677 - The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe - By Benjamin F. Fisher

The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe

Much remains uncertain about the life of Edgar Allan Poe, the mysterious author of one of the best-known American poems, “The Raven,” the Gothic romance “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and the first detective fiction, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” This book provides a balanced overview of Poe's career and writings, resisting the tendency of many scholars to sensationalize the more enigmatic aspects of his life. Benjamin F. Fisher outlines Poe's experiments with a wide range of literary forms and genres, and shows how his fiction evolved from Gothic fantasy to plausible, sophisticated psychological fiction. Fisher makes new and fruitful connections within this diverse body of work, and offers analyses of the major works. The critical afterlife of Poe's work is charted, and the book includes a guide to further reading, making this a handy starting-point for students and readers new to Poe.

Benjamin F. Fisher is Professor of English at the University of Mississippi.

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The American Short Story Martin Scofield

Creative Writing David Morley

Early English Theatre Janette Dillon

English Theatre, 1660–1900 Peter Thomson

Francophone Literature Patrick Corcoran

Modernism Pericles Lewis

Modern Irish Poetry Justin Quinn

Narrative (second edition) H. Porter Abbott

The Nineteenth-Century American Novel Gregg Crane

Postcolonial Literatures C. L. Innes

Russian Literature Caryl Emerson

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Shakespeare’s History Plays Warren Chernaik

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Theatre Studies Christopher Balme

Tragedy Jennifer Wallace

The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe

Benjamin F. Fisher

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Benjamin F. Fisher 2008

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2008

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data

Fisher, Benjamin Franklin.
The Cambridge introduction to Edgar Allan Poe / Benjamin F. Fisher.
 p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-85967-7 – ISBN 978-0-521-67691-5 (pbk.)
1. Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809–1849 – Criticism and interpretation. I. Title.
PS2638.F45 2008
818–.309 – dc22 2008028110

ISBN 978-0-521-85967-7 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-67691-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of abbreviations
Chapter 1     Life
Chapter 2     Contexts
The historical context
The American context
The context of slavery
Gender and sexuality
The graphic context
The urban context
The medical-scientific context
The psychological context
The existentialist-modernist context
Chapter 3     Works
The fiction: tales
The novels and Eureka
The criticism
Chapter 4     Reception
A guide to further reading


This book is aimed at advanced high school and lower-level college/university students. It consists of chapter 1, “Life,” in which the mythologies (often quite negative) that have grown up around Poe the person are avoided in favor of a factual account. Chapter 2, “Works,” provides coverage of Poe’s works and their place in the literature of the world. After all, what initially gained Poe widespread attention was his critical writings, an irony since during his teens and early twenties he intensely wanted to be regarded as a poet. An additional irony is that Poe very deliberately turned to the writing of fiction, chiefly short stories, which appeared in newspapers and literary magazines, because such wares had wide circulation and usually paid sooner and better than the process of turning copy into books tended to do. As scholars have discovered, some of Poe’s works were copied from their original sources by newspapers in distant locales, or were pirated by British periodicals. Poe’s fiction and some of his poems continue to be read, to be sure, as his most appealing imaginative writings. Because his critical ideas appeared mainly in reviews instead of in a single, extended book, they have, with few exceptions, not attracted a readership so large as that for the poems and tales. Great controversies enliven biographical and critical approaches to Poe and his writings, as will be apparent in the following pages. Chapter 2 treats “Contexts.” Chapter 4 focuses on “Critical reception,” followed by a “Guide to further reading.”



Edgar Allan Poe: Essays and Reviews, ed. G. R. Thompson. New York: Library of America, 1984.


The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison. 17 vols. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902; reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1965; reprinted (with “Introduction” by Floyd Stovall) New York: AMS Press, 1979.


Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott, with the assistance of Eleanor D. Kewer and Maureen Cobb Mabbott. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968–78.


The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. John Ward Ostrom. rev. edn. New York: Gordian Press, 1966.


Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Burton R. Pollin. 5 vols. Vol. 1 Boston: Twayne, 1981; vols. 2–5 New York: Gordian Press, 1985–97.


Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry and Tales, ed. Patrick F. Quinn. New York: Library of America, 1984.

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