Explore Edgar Allan Poe's Detective Fiction & Hoaxes

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In summary, Edgar Allan Poe is known as the father of modern detective fiction and his interest in debunking mysteries and misconceptions is reflected in his works. He was well-educated in math and physics and believed in the power of logic in literature. He was fascinated by hoaxes, mysteries, and codes, and often wrote about them in his stories. Despite his reputation for writing macabre tales, he claimed that it was a deliberate strategy to cater to popular taste. However, his attempts at writing humorous stories were not successful and are often excluded from collections of his works.
  • #1
zoobyshoe
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Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of all modern detective fiction and I see from reading more of his work that his detective fiction arose from his own interest in debunking mysteries and in unraveling misconceptions.

Previously I supposed he had some fascination with the paranormal that could be construed as partial belief, or at least open mindedness about it, but the more I find out about him, it's looking more like he composed his tales much more cold bloodedly with a specific eye to exploiting both "the popular and the critical taste".

...it will not be regarded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the modus operandi by which some one of my own works was put together. I select “The Raven,” as most generally known. It is my design to render it manifest that no one point in its composition is referrible either to accident or intuition — that the work proceeded, step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem.

http://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/philcomp.htm

You can see from that essay that writing was a very disciplined, logical procedure in his mind, aimed at satisfying "the popular and the critical taste". He was well educated in math and physics (as far as physics went in his day) and was extremely appreciative of both disciplines for their basis in logic. (He alludes to Newtonian mechanics fairly often in his stories as well as the mathematics of probability.) Effective literature emerges, he maintains, from the cold-blooded analysis, and manipulation of, literary effects. That whole essay is dedicated to that proposition because Poe liked dispelling misconceptions, dissecting hoaxes, deconstructing mysteries, including even the artistic process. He eschews any bunk about artists "discovering themselves", or clap-trap about "inner journeys".

He was fascinated by hoaxes, mysteries, and codes. He wrote a rather long debunking of a then well known chess-playing machine:

http://www.online-literature.com/poe/2189/

And his story The Mystery of Marie Roget was a debunking of popular rumors that sprang up around the actual unsolved murder of a NY shop girl.

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryAmerican/Early19thCentury/~~/dmlldz11c2EmY2k9OTc4MDE5NTExMzkyMQ==

His treasure hunting story,The Gold Bug revolves around a substitution code and was for a long time most people's introduction to the notion of a secret code, and he wrote a Valentine poem encoding the recipients name into it.

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-goldbug.htm
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-valentine/
(To decode the name of the recipient take the first letter of the first line, second letter of the second line, third letter of the third line, and so on.)

A few of his stories are tales of murder as told by the murderer. I'd be interested in reading his step by step explanation of what he was up to with those if such exists.

Anyway, reading him over the past year, I've changed my impression that he must have been an essentially mystical-thinking person to feeling he would probably enjoy PF.
 
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  • #2
If you don't appreciate Edgar Allan Poe, then you don't have a soul.

I'm personally more a fan of his short stories as opposed to his poems.
 
  • #3
I am a Poe fan. Great author, and though some his tales were macabre, they were compelling, IMO. :-p
 
  • #4
I'll be honest though, his "comedies" were somewhat dreadful. They were meant to be funny in the sense that (at least from the ones that I have read) a huge amount of entirely unlikely events happen.

Then again, you could always analyze them further and find them humorous, because I know that in at least one of them, it was Poe describing a figment of his imagination that caused his life to turn to turmoil, when he was really just drunk and passed out and overslept through an important meeting, but wanted to find something else to blame it on besides alcoholism.
 
  • #5
turbo said:
I am a Poe fan. Great author, and though some his tales were macabre, they were compelling, IMO. :-p
He did macabre best of all the genres he tried. If his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition" is to be taken at face value, his decision to go that route was part of a deliberate strategy to cater to popular taste. In other words, Like Stephen King after him, he realized that, if you don't write what people want to read, you'll languish in obscurity.

On the other hand you have to wonder, and people do, if these stories could actually end up being so compelling if they were actually written as dispassionately as he claims.
 
  • #6
AnTiFreeze3 said:
I'll be honest though, his "comedies" were somewhat dreadful. They were meant to be funny in the sense that (at least from the ones that I have read) a huge amount of entirely unlikely events happen.

Then again, you could always analyze them further and find them humorous, because I know that in at least one of them, it was Poe describing a figment of his imagination that caused his life to turn to turmoil, when he was really just drunk and passed out and overslept through an important meeting, but wanted to find something else to blame it on besides alcoholism.
I have to agree, his 'humorous" stories are "dreadful". They are only found in "The Complete Works of..." and are wisely excluded from "Selected Stories of..." that the editors intend people to actually enjoy.

I was pretty surprised to find out he ever tried his hand at humor and had to read some of these to see what they were about. It looks to me like he was heavily influenced by Jonathan Swift. The point of these stories is satire (he's ridiculing some class of person) and succession of preposterous events is probably meant to remind people of the outlandish situations Gulliver encountered. Poe doesn't pull it off, and what you end up with is a Shaggy Dog Story.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaggy_dog_story
 
  • #7
AnTiFreeze3 said:
If you don't appreciate Edgar Allan Poe, then you don't have a soul.

I'm personally more a fan of his short stories as opposed to his poems.

I don't have a soul and I enjoy Poe, greatly,
 
  • #8
Tor_Hershman said:
I don't have a soul and I enjoy Poe, greatly,

Error. Does not compute.
 
  • #9
I had originally intended to get a discussion going of Poe as one of the original debunkers, which he probably was, sort of the ancestor of Houdini (in his capacity as debunker of seances) and James Randi, and Derren Brown. The three I mention are all primarily magicians/performers who use their inside knowledge of illusion to debunk illusory phenomena that aren't presented as illusion.

Since the thread's been moved, though, anything goes. Discuss any aspect of Poe that comes to mind.

The biography I just read is called Edgar Allan Poe, His Life and Legacy, by Jeffrey Meyers. I haven't read any others to compare it to, but it seemed excellent, thoroughly researched, an easy read, well constructed.
 

Related to Explore Edgar Allan Poe's Detective Fiction & Hoaxes

What is Edgar Allan Poe's background in detective fiction?

Edgar Allan Poe is considered to be the pioneer of detective fiction. He wrote several short stories featuring detective C. Auguste Dupin, who was the inspiration for many future fictional detectives, including Sherlock Holmes. Poe's background in literature and his fascination with puzzles and riddles contributed to his success in creating the genre of detective fiction.

What are some common themes in Poe's detective fiction?

Poe's detective fiction often explores themes of mystery, deception, and the human mind. His stories also often deal with the concept of the unreliable narrator, where the reader is unsure of the truthfulness of the narrator's account of events. In addition, Poe's writing often delves into the darker aspects of human nature and the consequences of obsession and revenge.

How did Poe's hoaxes contribute to his reputation as a writer?

Poe's hoaxes, such as "The Balloon-Hoax" and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", gained widespread attention and helped increase his popularity as a writer. These hoaxes also demonstrated Poe's skill in creating convincing and realistic narratives, which he later utilized in his detective fiction. However, these hoaxes also brought criticism and skepticism to his writing, as some readers were unsure of what was real and what was fiction.

What makes Poe's detective fiction stand out from other contemporary works?

Poe's detective fiction is often praised for its intricate and complex plots, as well as its unique and innovative use of unreliable narrators. Unlike other contemporary detective fiction, Poe's stories often focus on the psychological aspects of crime and the inner workings of the human mind. His writing also showcases his poetic and lyrical style, making his stories both thrilling and thought-provoking.

What is the significance of Poe's detective fiction in the development of the genre?

Poe's detective fiction has had a lasting impact on the development of the genre. His stories set the foundation for the classic detective formula, with a brilliant and eccentric detective solving complex mysteries through logical deduction. Poe's influence can be seen in the works of other famous detective fiction writers, such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. His legacy continues to inspire and influence writers and readers alike, making him an important figure in the evolution of detective fiction.

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