"Never Otherwise Than Analytic": Poe's Science of the Divine

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Title: "Never Otherwise Than Analytic": Poe's Science of the Divine
Author: Elder, Matthew Stephen
Advisors: Christopher J. Cobb, Committee Member
Anne Baker, Committee Member
Allen F. Stein, Committee Chair
Abstract: When the writers of the American Romantic period were eschewing the Enlightenment values of reason and objectivity in favor of subjective, individual human experience, Edgar Allan Poe clung to rationality and claimed that it is a vital tool in the creation of art and in the quest for spiritual enlightenment. Critics, however, have long disputed whether Poe sincerely valued science and rationality or if he treated those concepts with irony and destabilized any knowledge that his characters acquire through rational, empirical truth seeking. This thesis seeks to explain how Enlightenment values figure in Poe's vision of art and the cosmos and to dispute the postmodern interpretations that claim that Poe's valorization of rationality and its products (namely science and technology) is ironic. To that end, I investigate, specifically, the connection of Poe's positivistic (rather than phenomenological) philosophy to his theological vision. The successful application of rational principles by Poe's narrators is consistently rendered in language and imagery suggestive of the divine, and it results in the spiritual enlightenment of the characters. Chapter one of this thesis examines Poe's science fiction against the philosophical backdrop established by Eureka and 'Sonnet — To Science' and argues that as the narrators apply rationality successfully, they come to resemble the God with whom they seek to commune. Chapter two reads Poe?s detective tales as allegories assigning cosmic significance to the concepts of reason, embodied by the God-like C. Auguste Dupin, and unreason, embodied by Dupin's adversaries.
Date: 2005-07-19
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/739


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