29 pages 58 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1838

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Literary Context: Romanticism and The Gothic Horror

Edgar Allan Poe is considered one of the fathers of American Gothic literature, a genre that owes a great deal to the Romantic Era of Europe but developed its own particular characteristics within the American landscape. Romanticism was a literary and artistic movement that was a reaction to the developing industrialized world and the increasing values of rationality and technological progress brought about by the Age of Enlightenment. Romanticism privileged emotions and the individual over scientific logic and globalization of the time. Within the United States, these qualities were particularly important in establishing a uniquely American identity.

Even as such Romantic literature, like that of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, helped to establish a uniquely American literary ethos, which was invested in the common man’s relationship with nature, other literature, like that of Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne veered into the macabre and the Gothic. Primarily known as a literary movement in 18th-19th century Europe, Gothic literature made use of melancholy themes, ghostly and monstrous figures, and vast isolated settings in order to express and navigate the social and culture anxieties of the time. Specifically, European Gothic reflected an obsession with the past and how that past and the present were in serious, sometimes violent conflict.