Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Degree Discipline



Early in his career, F.dgar Allan Poe recognized the necessity to escape the American tradition of colonial imitation and saw the need for a fresh beginning in literature. His central contribution to this field was the structure of the short story or tale. The much-quoted passage from Poe's "Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales" enunciates his entire theory of writing the short story:

A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single 'effect• to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents--he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the out bringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there shouJ.d be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preestablished design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction.

Poe recognized the short story as a whole made up of parts harmoniously related to one another; he interpreted this whole as a certain effect that a writer definitely intended to produce in the reader's mind, and to accomplish this singleness 2-f effect, the true artist, Poe believed, should utilize "the means most advantageously applicable. He treated the subject common to his day, the grotesque tale, but he artistically imbued terror and horror with his own brand of mysticism and transformed his type of tale into a unique creation. Because Poe ventured into a new realm of the imagination, his critics attacked him and accused him of imitating habits or traits of Germanism. In his preface to the "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque," Poe defended this charge by stating:

The epithets "Grotesque and Arabesque" will be found to indicate with sufficient precision the prevalent tenor of the tales ••• published. I may ••• therefore, have desired to preserve, as far as a certain point, a certain unity of design. This is, indeed, the fact; because I am led to think it is this prevalence of the "Arabesque" in my serious tales, which has induced one or two critics to tax me, in all friendliness, with what they have been pleased to term 11 Germanism" and gloom. The charge is in bad taste, and the grounds of the accusation have not been sufficiently considered. Let us admit, for the moment, that the 1phantasy-pieces 1 now given are Germanic~ or what not. The Germanism is 1the vein' for the time being •••• But the truth is that, with a single exception, there is no one of these stories in which the scholar should recognize the distinctive features of that species of pseudo-horror which we are taught to call Germanic, for no better reason than that some of the secondary names of German literature have become identified with its folly. If in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany; out of the soul--that I have deduced the terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results •••• therefore, that I have sinned, I have deliberately sinned.

Committee Chair/Advisor

F. B. Ledbetter

Committee Member

Anne L. Campbell

Committee Member

E. P. Williams


Prairie View Agricultural And Mechanical College


© 2021 Prairie View A & M University

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View





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