Eureka

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University of Illinois Press, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 191 pages
10 Reviews
Originally published in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe's Eureka stands as the single most important expression of the philosophic views on which all of his literary endeavors depend. Put in the context of Melville's Moby Dick, Thoreau's Walden, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and the music of Liszt and Wagner, it is an explosive, startlingly unconventional creation of the High Romantic era. Representing Poe's fantastical thoughts on how the universe was formed and what its future might be, this user-friendly critical edition is also the first to put Eureka in proper context. It includes Poe's proposed emendations to the text and sources and explains the setting in which it was produced, tying Eureka to world trends in philosophy and fast-breaking news in astronomy. To compile this definitive text, the Levines traveled to the special collections departments of various libraries to examine Poe's own notes on the various drafts. They also consulted with Poe scholars, classicists, and historians of astronomy. The result of their meticulous scholarship is a deep, broad, and throughly useful volume, essential for Poe scholars and valuable to anyone interested in American literature or the roots of science fiction.

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Review: Eureka

User Review  - Blair - Goodreads

An amazing blend of epic poetry and science, in true Poe fashion. It's a shame this piece isn't more well known. Read full review

Review: Eureka

User Review  - Fitzgerald - Goodreads

Poe's incredibly complex and hard-to-follow theory of the universe. Had to read it for a class, only made it halfway through. Read full review

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About the author (2004)

There has never been any doubt about Poe's enormous literary significance, but, with regard to his ultimate artistic merit, there has been considerable disagreement. To some he is little more than a successful charlatan, whose literary performances are only a virtuoso's display of stunning, but finally shallow, effects. Others, however, are struck by Poe's profound probing of the human psyche, his philosophical sophistication, and his revolutionary attitude toward literary language. No doubt both sides of this argument are in part true in their assessments. Poe's work is very uneven, sometimes reaching great literary heights, at other times striking the honest reader as meaningless, pathetic, or simply wrong-headed. This is not surprising, considering the personal turmoil that characterized so much of Poe's short life. Poe was extreme in his literary views and practices; balance and equilibrium were not literary values that he prized. Scorning the didactic element in poetry, Poe sought to separate beauty from morality. In his best poems, such as "The City in the Sea" (1836), he achieved an intensification of sound sufficient to threaten the common sense of the poetic line and release a buried, even a morbid, sense that would enchant the reader by the sonic pitch of the poem. Defining poetry as "the rhythmic creation of beauty," Poe not only sought the dream buried beneath the poetic vision---Coleridge had already done that---but also abandoned the moral rationale that gave the buried dream symbolic meaning. The dream, or nightmare, was itself the content of the verse. Some readers, however, such as T. S. Eliot, have found Poe's poetry extremely limited, both in its content and in its technique. While it is true that Poe was one of the few American poets to achieve international fame during the nineteenth century, critics point out that his influence on such literary movements as French symbolism and literary modernism was largely through the superb translations and criticisms of his writings by Baudelaire (see Vol. 2), Mallarme (see Vol. 2), and Valery (see Vol. 2). Poe's theory of the short story, as well as his own achievements in that genre, contributed substantially to the development of the modern short story, in Europe as well as in the United States. Poe himself regarded his talent for fiction writing as of less importance than his poetry and criticism. His public preferred his detective stories, such as "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842--1843) and "The Gold Bug" (1843); and his analytic tales, such as "A Descent into the Maelstrom" (1841), "The Black Cat" (1843), and "The Premature Burial" (1844). His own preference, however, was for the works of the imagination, such as "Ligeia" (1838), "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), and "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), tales of horror beyond that of the plausible kind found in the analytic stories. Just as with his poetry, however, readers have been strongly divided in their appreciation of the deeper worth of Poe's fiction. For many, they are at best merely an effective display in Gothicism, good horror stories, an enjoyable experience in vicarious terror, but nothing more. This was the view of Henry James, that other great nineteenth-century master of the ghost story, who claimed that "an enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection." But others have found in these carefully crafted pieces something far more profound, a way of seeing into our unconscious, that place where, for a while at least, terrifying conflicts coexist. As Poe so well put it himself in the preface to his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), "If in many of my productions terror has been the basis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany but of the soul.

STUART R. LEVINE is chairman and CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates LLC, an international consulting and leadership training company that received PricewaterhouseCooper's 1999 Innovator of the Year award. Their clients include Citibank, Harmon Associates Division of Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Microsoft, and Cablevision. Previously Levine was the CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., where he coauthored the international bestseller, "The Leader in You," He has been profiled in the" New York Times," the" Los Angeles Times," and "USA Today," and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, and PBS. He lives on Long Island, New York, with his wife, Harriet, and two children, Jesse and Elizabeth.

Susan F. Levine was an assistant dean of the Graduate School at the University of Kansas. Their past collaborations have included scholarly editions of Short Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and Poe's Eureka.

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