Chapter 5 Edgar Allen Poe





课 型

Theory and practice

课 题

Edgar Allen Poe


Aim of knowledge: 1. To make students get to know the masterpieces of Edgar Allen Poe

                 2. To make students get the general idea about the Poe’s theories on poems and novels and Gothic Novel

Aim of ability: training of the ability to analyze literature with literary theories

Aim of quality: To discuss what is real beauty


Lecture, discussion, PPT presentation


Key points: The Cask of Amontillado, To Helen, The Raven

Different Points: Poe’s theories on poems and novels



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Step1 Check up Students’ Homework

1) Please give us your opinion and evaluation about Walden.

2) Talk your opinion on American individualism reflected in Self- Reliance



Step2 Brief Introduction

1. Life (1809-1849)

  –Born in an actor and actress’s family

  – His parents died when he was very young

  –Adopted by a Virginia rich businessman John Allan

  – Entered the Virginia University at 17

  – West Point where he began to write poetry

  – Then tales – editor of magazines.

  – At 27 he married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia who died very young in 1947


2. Evaluation

  A. Novelist, poet, Professional literary critic;

  B. Good at writing Gothic and detective fiction, father of western detective stories;

  C. Father of psychoanalytic criticism;

  E. Advocates for “art for art’s sake” and his aesthetics has influenced French 


  F. For a long time, he was the most controversial, misunderstood: an evil genius鬼才

   – A jingle man ( Emerson)

   – His prose unreadable (Mark Twain)

   – Enthusiasm for Poe is primitive state of development. (Henry James)

   – In Europe Poe enjoyed respect “greatest journalistic critic of his time and his

      poetry is refined and his tales are complete works of art” (G.B. Shaw)


Step3 Theories on Literature

І. Theories on Poems

Poems    1. Poems should be short, concise and readable at one sitting;

  2. The aim of poem writing is beauty; the most beautiful thing described by a poem is the death of a beautiful woman;

 3. the desirable tone of a poem is melancholy;

 4. He opposed didactic (教学的,指导的) poems;

 5. He stressed the form of poem, esp. the beautiful and neat rhyme.


П. Poe’s Theories on the Short Stories

  1. The short story should be so brief as to be read at one sitting.

  2. The first sentence ought to help to bring out the “single effect” of the story.

  3. No word should be used which does not contribute to the work.

  4. A tale should reveal some logical truth, and should end with the last sentence,     leaving a sense of finality with the reader.


Step4 Major Works

І. General Introduction

1 . Poetry

1) The Raven   (1844) 《乌鸦》

2) Annabel Lee  《安娜贝尔丽》

3) The Sleeper 《睡美人》

4) A Dream Within a Dream 《梦中梦》

5) Israfel《伊斯拉菲尔》

6) The Bells 《钟》

7) Sonnet – To Science  《十四行诗--致科学》

8) To Helen  《献给海伦》

9) The City in the Sea  《海中的城市》


2. Short Stories

1) MS. Found in a Bottle (1833) 《瓶中手稿》

2) Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque  (1839)  《怪异故事集》

3) The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)  《莫格路上的暗杀案》

4) The Fall of the House of Usher  《厄舍古屋的倒塌》

5) The Cask of Amontillado 《一桶白葡萄酒》

6) Ligeia《丽姬娅》

7) The Purloined Letter 《窃信案》

8) The Man of the Crowd 《人群中的人》

9) The Tell-Tale Heart《泄密的心》

10) William Wilson《威廉.威尔逊》

11) Black Cat《黑猫》

12) The Imp of the Perverse《变态的小鬼》

13) The Gold Bug《金甲虫》

14) The Mystery of Marie Roger《玛丽.罗热疑案》

 15) The Masque of the Red Death《红色死亡的化妆舞会》


П. Appreciate The Cask of Amontillado


1. Who is the narrator?

2. Describe briefly how Poe characterizes Montresor and Fortunato as contrasts


1. The Story

   Revenge in an Italian city upon a nobleman Fortunato (drunk, dizzy) for some unspecified insult during Carnival Amontillado (Spanish sherry)


2. Characters

1) Narrator (Montresor)

  -with a devil of a heart sly, knows people’s heart well and all tricks to satisfy others’  


  -great contrast between his friendly appearance and evil of his heart

  -His disguise of unwillingness to have his victim go and his eagerness to lead his

   enemy into the trap of death

2) Fortunado

  quick-tempered, somewhat simple-minded (not authentic )

  His pride, vanity  prove to be his destruction


3. Artistic Features

1) elements of terror:

  horrors of violence, murder, and death

  darkness of human nature (first person point of view)

  great fear and despair of the character’s the frightening, grotesque scene

2) use of irony

  death vs carnival (situational )

  Fortunato (fortune) (verbal, situational )

  funny appearance and miserable death (situational)

  my good will, my friend, to your long life (verbal irony )

3) use of dialogue

4) the alien and exotic setting


4. Style

   formal style: archaic words, complex structure of sentences foreign or archaic fashion of expression (other than English)


Ш. Appreciate To Helen

    Poe wrote To Helen as a reflection on the beauty (Physical beauty+Spiritual beauty) of Mrs.Jane Stith Stanard who died in 1824. She was the mother of one of Poe’s school classmates,who is said to have urged him to write poetry,and she was Poe’s frist real love.


Helen, thy beauty is to me   

Like those Nicean barks of yore,  (Simile  明喻)

That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,   (Hyperbole  夸张)

The weary, way-worn wanderer bore  (Alliteration  头韵)

To his own native shore.  






Question: Why does the poet compare Helen's beauty to "Nicean barks of yore"?


1. 海伦是宙斯和勒达的女儿,她是那个时代最漂亮的女子.还在当姑娘的时候,她被忒修斯劫持抢走.后来由两位兄长重新把她夺回来.她跟随继父斯巴达国王廷达瑞俄斯长大。之后,她嫁给了墨涅拉俄斯(亚各斯人的国王)。海伦给他生下一个女儿。后来,墨涅拉俄斯外出。海伦一个人在宫殿里很孤寂。一次外出中,她在阿尔忒弥斯神庙遇见帕拉斯王子。两人相爱了。于是,王子就把海伦“劫持”到了自己的国家。也就是这件事,引发了著名的特洛伊战争。

2. 海伦的美有如往日尼西亚的三桅船”,乍一看去,三桅船并非常见的美的喻体,但在爱伦坡看来,两者的共通之处在于它们都能将疲惫的水手带回家乡。

3. 海伦的美让大海也变得“芬芳四溢”。

4. 诗人通过头韵将水手的疲惫形象活灵活现地展现出来.


On desperate seas long wont to roam,

Thy hyacinth风信子 hair, thy classic face,    (Parallelism)

Thy Naiad水仙女 airs have brought me home   ( Metaphor)

To the glory that was Greece,

And the grandeur that was Rome.



1. “风信子般的头发,典雅的面庞,水仙女般的风姿带我回到昨日希腊的光荣,



Lo! in you brilliant window-niche

How statue-like I see thee stand,     (Simile)

The agate玛瑙 lamp within thy hand!

Ah, Psyche普塞克, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!




哦!普赛克 ,你所来自的地方


Question: In what form does Helen appear in the final stanza? Why does she carry a lanp in her hands?


1. 在希腊神话中,普赛克公主,美丽绝伦。他是爱神厄洛斯之妻,厄洛斯禁止她看见自己的模样,而普赛克因好奇在夜晚举灯看丈夫的模样,灯油滴到爱神脸上唤醒了他,普塞克因此被丈夫逐出家门。


VI. Appreciate The Raven

    “  ….the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world”                                               __ Allen Poe



  1. What is the general mood of the poem? How is this mood created and strengthened?

2. What are the sound devices used in the poem? How do these devices contribute to     the creation of the general atmosphere?

3. What might be the function(s )of the raven in the poem, and its symbolic meaning ?


The Raven
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.  
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.  
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,  
As of some one rapping, rapping at my chamber door.  
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--  
Only this, and nothing more."  

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,  
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.  
Eagerly I wished the morrow; -vainly I had tried to borrow  
From my books surcease of sorrow-sorrow for the lost Lenore-  
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-  
Nameless here for evermore  

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain  
Thrilled me-filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;  
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating  
" ' Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-  
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-  
This it is and nothing more.  

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,  
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;  
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,  
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,  
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door;  
Darkness there, and nothing more.  

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting  
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;  
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,  
And the lamp-light o' er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;  
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor  
Shall be lifted-nevermore!  


1. Topic: the death of a beautiful woman

2. Setting: midnight: a time associated with the end of life

bleak December: a season associated with the end of life

the room: warmed and lighted by “dying embers”, associated with the supernatural

the purple curtains: a color associated with Funereal custom

3. Mood: melancholic, sorrowful, even desperate

   The repetition of the word “Nevermore” increases the speaker’s feelings of pain and loss. This pattern of self-inflicted torture builds in intensity until the speaker breaks

down emotionally and demands that the raven “Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door”.

4. Sound: It takes Poe 4 years to complete “The Raven”

→a marvel of regularity:

          719 feet of which 705 are perfect trochees (1 strong + 1 weak), 10 doubtful trochees and only 4 clearly dactyls (1 strong + 2 weak)

  Rhyme scheme: abcbbb

  Internal rhyme (dreary, weary; remember, December)

  Alliteration (flirt, flutter; stately, saintly…)

  Assonance (dreary, weary; napping, tapping, rapping; morrow, borrow, sorrow, with the  sound “o” to show one’s sad, sorrow and grief mood; …)

    Sound and rhythm make the poem musical and melodious. They contribute a lot to the mood and the theme of the writing at the same time.

5. symbolism

1) Raven: disaster and misfortune

    Raven, the large bird-like crow with black feathers, in Western countries, as well as it is in China, is conventionally regarded as an ominous fowl, a symbol of misfortune. Thus with the repetition of the "napping and tapping" the poet was filled "with fantastic terrors never felt before."

2) the "lost Lenore" : the soul of the radiant maiden, beauty and hope

 At the moment when the poet was in the darkness peering, wondering, expecting and whispering Lenore but was just responded with a "nothing more," the Raven, "with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door."  A conversation was held and the poet was so comforted with it. For twice, the poet felt the bird "beguiling my sad fancy into smiling."

3) The poet’s strong passion to Lenore: the sub-consciousness of the poet

In the conversation the poet distinctly expressed his strong passion to Lenore. However, the only response from the Raven was "Nevermore."  It seems what the poet had expressed is simply the view out of the "id", while the Raven 's words are rather restrictive and seem out of "ego."  The poet was too affectionate to Lenore to be restrictive, while the Raven was what warned him to be rational and that what had been lost would return "nevermore."

4) The poet’s frustration: the modern reality

The poet was of the firm belief that in modern society human beings are apathetic creatures. He was deeply resentful at the people's indifference towards his mourning to Lenore; therefore, he turned to the Raven for comfort. But quite to his disappointment, he was merely responded with a cold "nevermore."


Step5 The Difficulties and Key Points of This Class (Summary)

Key Points: The Cask of Amontillado, To Helen, The Raven

Different Points: Poe’s theories on poems and novels


Step6 Homework

    Preview One's Self I Sing on P61 written by Whitman, I'm Nobody on P66 written by

Emily Dickinson and To Helen on P59 written by Poe, and compare and contrast these

three poems' similarities and differences. (From themes and writing styles)