Poe's Paradox of Unity
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Research Awards, 2018. This paper was originally prepared for Course ENGL 461, Fall 2017: Edgar Allan Poe, given by Professor Amanda Johnson, Department of English.
This essay is an analysis of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s artistic works through the lens of his empirical, but often very pedagogical works. In many ways, his later texts, namely “The Philosophy of Composition” and “Eureka” serve as a guideline upon which to evaluate Poe’s poems. This essay explores the degree to which the “rules” postulated in both Poe’s essay and prose-poem are followed in two of his poems, “The Raven” and “Ulalume.” Consequently, the meaning of “unity” in Poe’s writing is explored, and the degree to which adherence of his own prescribed rules has an effect on creating unity within the poem. I argue that there are two types of unity that embody these poems in different ways: ‘unity of impression’, which Poe defines and discusses in “The Philosophy of Composition,” and ‘perfect unity,’ a term derived from his contemplations in “Eureka.” Through this analysis, we can better understand the subliminal elements that may be at work in these pieces of literature, and the reason that Poe’s works are uniquely known to generate such effects on his readers.