Defense Date

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua Eckhardt

Second Advisor

Dr. Marcel Cornis-Pope

Third Advisor

Dr. Anthony B. Mangum

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Karen Rader

Abstract

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) lived at the perfect time to write about several of the most dramatic technological developments ever recorded in history. Up until the nineteenth century, professional scientists were almost the exclusive agents for writing about science. However, during this period, non-professional writers also emerged as important conveyors of popular science news to the public. Though Poe was a lay writer, his popular writing conveyed several of the most important new discoveries of the Industrial Age. He also projected his views about how nineteenth-century technologies might impact civilizations of the future. Poe’s writing offers a key example of a widespread movement of thinkers who attempted to mediate the tensions and debates that were taking place in his lifetime between those who perceived and described the world from either the “Mechanical” or the “Romantic” approach.

This study explores the ways that Poe wrote about science in poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I argue that a review of his earlier science writing helps to unlock several of the enigmatic writings of his culminationg work, Eureka:A Prose Poem. The final chapter of this thesis concludes with an in-depth discussion of Eureka. In Eureka, Poe proposes that man’s literary works are imperfect. However, he contends that the Creator has written and executed a perfect “Plot of the Universe.” Poe attempts to unravel several of its deepest mysteries in a multi-genre work of poetry, history, science, and metaphysics. I argue that modern scholars of literature and science history can gain a clearer view of the ways that the nineteenth-century public received and understood information about science by exploring Poe’s science writing than has been provided in previous historical or literary scholarship.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

11-19-2015

Available for download on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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