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Poe: The Trauma of an Era

Óscar Xavier Altamirano

Despite the attention lavished on Edgar Allan Poe, his long-standing status as a «critical orphan» endures. He is known as much for a poem, a story and a biographical myth as for his extraordinary body of work, often written off as second rate. He is a writer obscurely cherished by lovers of the macabre, oversimplified and entangled in sophisticated theoretical analyses and judgements that fail to consider the esoteric doctrines central to his work. In other words, lost between the initiated and the profane, Poe has become a gigantic puzzle and one that needs reassembling. His writings remain elusive, while his role in the literary history of our age defies canonicity.

An intellectual history that fills this crucial gap by restoring Poe to his turbulent historical context, this book recovers the philosophical and esoteric complexity of a riddler, a satirist and a biting social critic in his struggle to make sense of the cardinal malaises and dominant ideas of a revolutionary age, confronted with a new and shattering conception of man, nature and the universe. It reconsiders the way we read, study and present Poe to future generations, decoding with exceptional clarity the enigmas of a monumental writer – a cult figure – who is inseparable from the historical consciousness of the modern world.

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Chapter 2: Towards a Metaphysics of Reintegration

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CHAPTER 2

Towards a Metaphysics of Reintegration

While the people of this day run after such authors as Prescott and Willis, speak with reverence of the Channings and Adamses and Irvings, their children in referring back to our time in literary history, will say, ‘this was the time of Poe’. If called upon to name the trait which distinguishes this writer from other writers of equal genius, we should say it was the metaphysical nature of all his productions and of every line of them.

— JOHN MONCURE DANIEL, ‘EDGAR ALLAN POE’, Southern Literary Messenger (March 1850)

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