20 pages 40 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

A Dream Within a Dream

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1849

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Literary Context

Edgar Allan Poe is classified today as a central figure of the Romantic movement in the United States. The Romantic movement is a literary era generally spanning from 1800-1850 in the United States, which had a significant impact on the literary themes of the 19th century. This movement started in Europe in the mid-18th century as a reaction against Enlightenment ideals and Neoclassical poetry. Key figures in the English Romantic movement with works similar to Poe include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley, and William Blake.

Romantic poetry is less concerned with romantic love specifically. Characteristics of this movement include a shift away from rationality, focusing instead on imagination and emotions. Romanticism was also a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and considered the human relationship with nature. Many Romantic poets praise nature; Poe writes nature as an extreme version of the sublime. In his works, Poe considers nature’s danger and often grotesque power rather than meditating on nature’s grandeur.

Because Poe rejected Transcendentalism—the main branch of Romanticism in the United States—he is often classified today as a pioneer of dark romanticism. While Transcendentalists believed that humankind could attain perfection through seeking wisdom and good deeds, dark romantics focused on the supernatural and how easily human beings could be corrupted by sin.