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‘… his rich ideality’— Edgar Allan Poe’s Detective

  • Stephen Knight

Abstract

Poe was the first to create the intelligent, infallible, isolated hero so important to crime fiction of the last hundred years. He wrote three stories featuring this detective, and each differs from the others. The three together imply that the isolated intellectual and imaginative life is a sufficient and successful response to the world and its problems. This crucial nineteenth and twentieth-century ideology is familiar to us now; Poe’s genius was to shape a literary form that gave it persuasive life. A study of the three texts will show this was not easy or always successful, but a pattern emerged which was artistically meaningful enough to be repeated over and over, with relevant modifications, and satisfy an increasing reading public, assure them that disorder could be contained by activating values that leisured readers could all share.

Keywords

Detective Story Real Crime Story Pattern Rhetorical Skill Early Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References

Text

  1. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Everyman’s Library, Dent, London, reprint 1975.Google Scholar

Criticism

  1. Poe discussed Caleb Williams in a review of Barnaby Rudge and other novels, published in Graham’s Magazine, Feb. 1842, reprinted in the Virginia edition of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, AMS, New York, 1965 (reprint), vol. XI, 38–64. Poe’s remarks on ‘The Raven’, also including some comments on Caleb Williams, are in ‘The Philosophy of Composition’, Graham’s Magazine, Apr. 1846, also see Complete Works, vol. XIV, 193–208.Google Scholar
  2. Marie Bonaparte, Edgar Poe: Etude Analytique, Denoel et Steele, Paris, 1933.Google Scholar
  3. B. H. Bronson, ‘Personification Reconsidered’, English Literary History, XIV (1947) 163–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Robert Daniel, ‘Poe’s Detective God’, Furioso VI (Summer 1951) 45–52, reprinted in W. L. Howarth (ed.), Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe’s Tales, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. E. H. Davidson, Poe: A Critical Study, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1952.Google Scholar
  6. D. Halliburton, Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological View, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1973.Google Scholar
  7. Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art, Routledge, London, 1962.Google Scholar
  8. Daniel Hoffman, Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, Doubleday, New York, 1972.Google Scholar
  9. Jacques Lacan, ‘Seminar on The Purloined Letter’, Tale French Studies, XLVIII (1973) 39–72.Google Scholar
  10. Julian Symons, Bloody Murder, rev. edn, Penguin, London, 1974.Google Scholar
  11. G. R. Thompson, Poe’s Fiction, Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales, Wisconsin University Press, Madison, 1973.Google Scholar
  12. John Walsh, Poe the Detective, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1968.Google Scholar
  13. Richard Wilbur, ‘The Poe Mystery Case’, New York Review of Books, 13 July 1967.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Knight 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Knight

There are no affiliations available

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