Document Type


Date of Award



Poe, Edgar Allan, Criticism and interpretation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

William B. Stein

Second Advisor

Bernard Rosenthal

Third Advisor

Philip E. Rogers


EDGAR ALLAN POE consists of several persons. His artistic spirit embodies the dynamic energy and protean nature that Novalis ascribes to genius. And like most great geniuses, Poe exhibits a multifaceted character in his creative works. The artistry of a chamelionic creator pervades every aspect of his fiction. For this and many other reasons, Poe retains a unique place in American literary history as perhaps our most misunderstood artist. Despite his rare talent and mastery of variegated vocabularies, Poe has been stereotyped by reductive twentieth century criticism. Scholarship persistently confines his multi—dimensional genius to the pigeonhole of the Gothic romance. By typecasting Poe as merely a macabre artist, critics continually neglect the ingenious dexterity and crypto—kaleidoscopic features of his polymorphous prose. The method and scope of this study proposes a thoroughgcing analysis of his comic and arabesgue fiction. These tales have been generally ignored by previous critics or else they have received insufficient documentation with regard to Poe's verbal trickery. In every instance, the major area of inquiry will be the language games and gambits that the artist employs to energize his antic creations. The second objective is to relate these diversified comic techniques to similar strategies in Poe's arabesgue and Gothic fiction in order to gain a greater understanding of how he manipulates language to determine a reader's response to a work of the creative imagination. In many cases, a mere exaggeration of a certain technique will convert a deadly serious horror story into an outright burlesque (witness the critical debate over tales such as "The Assignation," "Berenice," and "The Premature Burial." Some scholars treat them as serious pieces while other commentators interpret them as parodies of the melancholic mode of Gothic literature). In general, the thesis of this study favors the portrait of Poe as a capricious creator. Although original perception and independent judgment are among the highest aims of this critical endeavor, the clarity of objective observations remains the major goal.