Failure, Transcendence, and Dark Romanticism

Charity McAdams

Edgar Allan Poe often set the scenes of his stories and poems with music: angels have the heartstrings of lutes, spirits dance, and women speak with melodic voices. These musical ideas appear to mimic the ways other authors, particularly Romanticists, used music in their works to represent a spiritual ideal artistic realm. Music brought forth the otherworldly, and spoke to the possible transcendence of the human spirit. Yet, Poe's music differs from these Romantic notions in ways that, although not immediately perceptible in each individual instance, cohere to invert Romantic idealism. For Poe, artistic transcendence is impossible, the metaphysical realm is unreachable, and humans cannot perceive anything but their own failure of spirit. In this book, I show how we can look at Poe's poems and stories on the whole to discover this, and in doing so, unpack some of Poe's mysticism along the way.

Poe and the Idea of Music