Poe’s Appeal to those Isolated in a Modern World

Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” provides an example of his universal appeal of terror to connect with his audience. Poe’s tale provides an alternative to audience that feels an isolation. The unnamed narrator in the tale navigates a path of uneasiness and unknown circumstances. One approach to Poe’s work focuses on his ability to control an emotional perception in his reader’s to entertain their desires. Another similar critique determines that these reactive perceptions are successful by being shifting extremes of emotional responses. The unnamed narrator is bombarded with these emotional shifts when he enters the house. His isolation and unnerving experience between Roderick and Madeline shows Poe’s ability to create emotional extremes. Poe’s appeal to those unsatisfied with Romanticism’s unrealistic positivity in the unknown of industrialization in the 19th century is called by some scholars Negative Romanticism. Negative Romanticism appears as a counter to modern society in other cultures such as early 20th century Japanese writers unsatisfied with the nature focused literature of Japan. But how does Negative Romanticism and these techniques of catering to a reader’s tastes connect with Poe’s mass appeal. To understand this I looked outside America to research Poe’s popularity in Chinese and Japanese Literature.

Other scholars focus on Poe’s appeal in a post 19th century world as an outlet for those that feel isolated in the industrialized world. My research project will focus on Poe’s popularity correlating with his use of human qualities of terror, sadness, and isolation in the unknown of his works. I will examine how these elements appeal to an audience that feels isolated and unconnected to the modern world. My research will attempt to find a relevance between Poe’s work and his popularity among those discontent with the other literary outlets. I will use the struggles of Poe’s life and his failures in his time as well as his financial problems as an example of his personal discontent. I will use this to relate to his world’s appeal to others discontent with life. I will use my research of Poe’s influence in China during its different periods of struggle with modernization in the early 20th century, the rise of communism, and the modern 21st century and China’s place as an economic superpower. I will also examine Poe’s influence on Chinese horror stories to directly correlate this appeal and popularity. As mentioned earlier with Japan being an outlet for Poe’s appeal, I will also examine the various works and how Poe’s popularity influenced these writers. I will argue the connection between his appeal and his ability to entertain and provide an alternative in a the uneasiness of the industrialized world I hope to find a connection between his use of Negative Romanticism and his popularity among foreign and domestic audience’s as well as the writers of China and Japan. In the end I hope to see Poe as more than a “Gothic” writer and


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