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One of the giants of Gothic Literature, Edgar Allan Poe set the standard not only for the genres creepy plot and characters, but also for what it means to be Goth Depicted in portraits dressed in black, with haunted, sunken eyes, Poe’s bad boy behavior, excessive drinking, vicious feuding with other writers, and harsh criticism of other literary work would fit as well in a punk fanzine as well as it did in the literary magazines where he made his name and reputation.
Edgar Allen Poe was born in January of 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were actors and separated when Poe was young. He was orphaned at the age of two, after both his mother and father died in December 1811. The wealthy John and Francis Allen adopted Poe and raised him in their Virginia home. He was schooled in England and attended the University of Virginia briefly. After a short stint in the military, Poe began his writing career. Initially his poetry was not commercially successful. In August 1835, he began working for the literary magazine the southern Literary Messenger. He got off to a rocky start to due his excessive drinking, but within a few months, he was named editor. He published some of his fiction as well as reviews but was primarily known as a critic.
In 1836, Poe, now 27, married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia. Starting in 1838 with the narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe published a series of stories and poems that established him as a master of American Literature. Later works such as The Rave in 1845, broke new poetic ground. These poems and his theories of composition helped to develop modern perspectives on the aesthetic value of poetry and short stories.
In an 1846 essay, Poe laid out what he considered to be the essentials of a good short story; exemplified in the Tell-Tale Heart. Chiefly, unity of impression where a distinctive tone carried throughout the short story. Further, Poe was a founding story of several fiction genres such as the modern horror story, the psychological horror story and even science fiction. Yet, Poe’s artistic successes were darkened by personal trials and tragedies. Afer losing his wife to tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s alcoholism and depression worsened. Fittingly, Poe’s death was somewhat mysterious.
On October 3rd, 1849 he was found in the street badly dressed, delirious and unable to move. He died four days later. Poe’s last words were reportedly “Lord, help my poor soul.” Gothic literature emerged in the late 18th century with the publication of the 1764 novel “Castle of Otranto” written by the English novelist Horace Walpole.
Gothic literature accented mystery and the supernatural, focusing its attention on the irrational. Narratives often deliver fragmented information in order to build suspense and mystery. The Tell-Tale Heart is no exception with its eerie setting and possible mad narrator. The American short story grew unpopularity due to the growing availability of magazines. Poe was extremely influential in the short story genre, being a pioneer in laying out the rules to the short story. For example, readers should be able to finish a story in one setting, writers should strive for unity of effect, and nothing should distract from the stories design, and although they should be imaginative, stories must always tell the truth about human nature.
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