Gaston Bachelard on Edgar Allan Poe

 

An extract from: P. Quinn, The French Face of Edgar Allan Poe, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, pages 24-25.

 

For Bachelard, Poe is, in general terms, a poet of water… This insight makes possible, among other things, a clear-cut demarcation between Poe and a writer with whom he is often associated, E.T.A. Hoffman. A study of their imagery of water and fire shows how different they are: Hoffman fascinated by flame, Poe recoiling compulsively from it, so that, as in “Ulalume,” a volcano image is given in the form of “scoriac rivers,” even though this fluvial effect weakens the figure Poe must have intended. More specifically, Poe is the poet of darkened water, water which is stagnant, heavy, and dead. It absorbs life, drains it away. In a word, the water which fascinated Poe and which in “Ulalume,” “The City in the Sea,” “Usher,” and so on, is a dominant image, is no longer the “real” water which is drunk, but that which drinks.

 

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