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Edgar Allan Poe, Crank Scientist

Posted On: Oct 26, 2021   |   Posted By: The New Republic

There's never been a more curious work in Edgar Allan Poe's oeuvre than his 1848 epic, Eureka: A Prose Poem. A freewheeling attempt to describe the origins of the cosmos, filled with lofty abstractions and often turgid prose, it got a lukewarm reception at the time and has since largely been dismissed by both readers and critics. Too slapdash to be legitimate scientific inquiry, and too self-serious to be good writing, it seems, at best, an overeager misstep and best left forgotten. Indeed, given Poe's propensity for hoaxes and passing off fiction as fact (including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym ), scholars have been unsure, as Susan Manning noted in 1989, about “the degree but also the quality of the seriousness” with which they should approach Eureka. Treating Eureka without irony, Manning continued, was “an appalling prospect.” It would mean scholars would “have to follow his arguments, test his analogies, weigh his conclusions-and all with a similarly ponderous solemnity.” Poe, however, thought the...

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