Master of Arts (MA)


Mark Harris

Primary Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition; Literature, American; Literature, General


Auguste Dupin, Detective Stories, Edgar Allan Poe, Gold-Bug, Hop-Frog, Narrative Paradigm


Edgar Allan Poe, widely regarded as an extremely influential American writer and prolific literary critic, exacted high standards in both his writing and in the writing of those he reviewed. Though his criticism was harsh, it was a necessary part of the growing process for American literature to become a separate and distinct body of literature. However, Poe's literary criticism is not his only work that bore the stinging marks of his pen; his fiction was also a venue for Poe to express his dissatisfaction with the literary field in America. Using a combination of close reading for textual analysis and Walter Fisher's narrative paradigm, this thesis explores the question of who, exactly, Poe was chastising in his literature. Some have said Poe was a racist, or a misogynist, or just bitter. This thesis examines Poe's literature, focusing on his short stories, in light of his literary milieu. In his detective stories, Poe seems to be questioning and attacking the established literary authority--the Transcendentalists and the Literati--as well as those who chose to plagiarize. In some of the other literary genres in which Poe wrote, it appears he is doing the same. Poe's short stories, then, were not just a means of generating revenue for himself; they were an attack and an argument against the current literary field.