Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Book Description:

    Zimmerman breaks new ground in Poe studies by providing a catalogue of three hundred figures of speech and thought in the author's oeuvre, including his tales, personal correspondence, literary criticism, book reviews, and marginalia. This incisive catalogue of literary and rhetorical terms, presented in alphabetical order and amply illustrated with examples - in addition to close examinations of some of Poe's most important tales - overwhelmingly demonstrates Poe's rhetorical and linguistic dexterity, putting a nearly two-hundred-year-old critical debate to rest by showing Poe to be a conscientious craftsman of the highest order.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7291-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    This brief sampling of pronouncements — for an amplification, see chapter I — shows vividly how wide apart Poe readers can be on the volatile issue of his style; but insufficient critical attention has been paid to that style to swing the judgment to one side or the other once and for all. Pronouncements, when they come at all, often tend to be negative, as if a brief dismissal in the spirit of Mark Twain or Allen Tate (or Henry James or Yvor Winters or T.S. Eliot or Harry Levin) is sufficient: “Poe was an awful stylist; now let’s move on to...

  6. CHAPTER ONE “I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s”: Poe’s Stylistic Versatility
    (pp. 3-27)

    Allow me to begin with an anecdote (paradiegesis). In 1979, while attending a prestigious Canadian university, I participated in an undergraduate survey course on nineteenth-century American literature. We did most of the classic writers: Thoreau, Melville, Dickinson, Mark Twain, Hawthorne, Whitman — they hardly need to be enumerated. When we came to the section on Poe, however — and we had only reserved a single one-hour lecture for him — the professor announced that next week’s class on Poe was optional. Consequently, only four students in a course of over 100 showed up. A lover of Poe’s Gothic tales, science fiction, and sweet-sounding...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Frantic Forensic Oratory and the Rhetoric of Self-Deceit: “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”
    (pp. 28-50)

    In chapter I I defend Poe as a stylist, and in part that involves examining his dexterous use of rhetorical tropes and schemes; yet rhetoric involves not only figures of speech and eloquence but also persuasive force. I have no idea what Ezra Pound meant when he complained that Poe is “A dam’d bad rhetorician half the time” (quoted in Hubbell, 20). Perhaps he was referring to Poe’s literary criticism, but what concerns me here is the rhetoric of some of Poe’s murderous narrators, for John P. Hussey is certainly correct when he notes that “Poe created a series of...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Allegoria, Chronographia, and Clock Architecture in “The Masque of the Red Death”
    (pp. 51-62)

    Several scholars have drawn attention to the imagery of time, the foregroundedchronographia,in Poe’s tales: clocks, watches, pendulums, hour and minute hands, ticking sounds, and the frequency of that most Gothic of hours, midnight. For instance, in “The Theme of Time in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’” Gargano, noting the “images and sounds that evoke the rhythm of time” in the story, concludes that the mad narrator has become obsessed with the passing of the hours and that “His quarrel, then, is not with a ravaged individual but with Time, which on one level is symbolized by the omnipresent ‘watches’ and...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Poe’s Linguistic Comedy
    (pp. 63-84)

    The phrase “Poe’s comedy” may seem to many a contradiction in terms, or a jarring collocation. J. Marshall Trieber offers a quip about “the old charge that a study of Poe’s humor might consist of twenty blank pages” (32). Certainly those readers who know Poe only by his most famous tales and consider him primarily a gothicist are surprised to learn that he wrote comedic tales as well. We can imagine their surprise when they pull from their library shelvesComic Tales of Edgar Allan Poe,edited by Angus Wolfe Murray, orThe Other Poe: Comedies and Satires,edited by...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Linguistic Weaponry of the “Tomahawk Man”: Poe’s Critical Reviews
    (pp. 85-106)

    One year after Poe’s death,The Southern Literary Messengerpublished a review essay of his that the editor titled “Poe on Headley and Channing.” Appended to the article was the following announcement: “From advance sheets of ‘The Literati,’ a work in press, by the late Edgar A. Poe, we take the following sketches of Headley and Channing —as good specimens of the tomahawk-style of criticism of which the author was so great a master.In the present instances the satire is well-deserved” (13: 102 ni; my italics). Four years earlier, Poe had been engaged to write a series of Literati...

  11. Catalogue of Rhetorical and Other Literary Terms in Poe’s Works
    (pp. 107-325)

    Most of the 300 terms here are figures of speech and thought — rhetorical devices — such as are found in other catalogues (especially Lanham, Espy, Taylor, Joseph, Sonnino, Quinn, and Dupriez) but I also include certain logical fallacies to show that although Poe could identify errors in argumentation he is occasionally guilty of such himself. The terms are explored here with definitions, exemplifications, and in many cases miniessays that serve several functions: to offer my own insights on Poe’s techniques as a writer; to consider how his styles relate to his themes and characteristic concerns; to inspire further explorations and insights...

  12. The Terms by Type
    (pp. 326-330)
  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 331-336)

    I believe that the preceding catalogue of terms from classical rhetoric, linguistics, and informal logic reinforces what the previous five chapters are intended to demonstrate: Poe was a clever rhetorician and a meticulous, conscientious, and sometimes innovative literary craftsman — a brilliant stylist. We have seen several aspects of Poe’s literary credo, one of which is that style should reflect character. Another is that a writer should be stylistically versatile. Both those rules are illustrated easily by an examination of Poe’s narrators, who are stylistically distinct from one another and from Poe himself (who is thereforenota literary twin of...

  14. APPENDIX ONE Stauffer on Poe’s “Five Styles”
    (pp. 337-341)
  15. APPENDIX TWO Paranoid Schizophrenia in “The Tell-Tale Heart”
    (pp. 342-354)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 355-374)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 375-386)
  18. Index
    (pp. 387-408)