Text: Alan C. Golding, “Reductive and Expansive Language: Semantic Strategies in Eureka,” Poe Studies, June 1978, Vol. XI, No. 1, 11:1-5


[page 1:]

Reductive and Expansive Language:
Semantic Strategies in Eureka

University of Chicago

On the very first page of Eureka Poe poses a central problem of the work — how to create a language to explain the universe: “What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their sublimity — efficiently sublime in their simplicity — for the mere enunciation of my theme?” (1). Before examining how Poe attacks this problem, we must understand what he means by “simple” and “sublime,” terms which he suggests are virtually synonymous. The “simplicity” that Poe seeks is the “absolute extreme of Simplicity” (XVI, 207) which was the origin of the material universe and which is itself a limitless sublime. The sublime for Poe has always been best approached in a simple language (witness his poetry). He believes that “subjects which surpass in grandeur all efforts of the human imagination are well depicted only in the simplest and least metaphorical language” (XI, 22). John P. Hussey finds the same relation between sublime subject and simple language in Hugh Blair, whose work on the traditions of classical rhetoric probably influenced Poe. Hussey rightly reads Eureka as “an epideictic oration on the sublime” and usefully summarizes Blair’s views on how to talk about sublimity (2). The rhetorician of the sublime, says Blair, must gradually awaken his audience’s sensibility and employ consistent, simple language to achieve a fully sublime effect: “the main secret of being sublime, is to say great things in few and plain words. . . . The most sublime authors are the simplest in their style” (3).

We should not conclude, however, that Poe rejects the use of metaphor for a sublime subject. I shall show that he gradually points out to his reader the limits of the “simplest and least metaphorical language” and thus primes him to accept more metaphorical language. Simple language by itself is inadequate for a subject which transcends human imagination and therefore human language. The sublime is such a subject. Kent Ljungquist isolates some characteristics of the sublime which remain consistent throughout Poe’s career — “The observation of a vast expanse, the effort of the mind to enlarge itself to conceive a “teat object,” the creation of the sublime in an ideal world of spiritual response which transcends corporeal reality (4). Following Friedrich Schiller, whose ideas probably reached Poe via Coleridge, and Angus Fletcher’s Ljungquist argues that the experience of the sublime follows a confrontation [column 2:] with and rejection of the limits of the natural world. “Sublime” is consistently a term of non-sensible reference and of non-limitation in Poe’s work. Yet the only language he has to express this supersensible experience is the limited, “simple” language of the sensible world.

The one term “sufficiently simple” and “sufficiently sublime” is Logos, the original One Word which contains all words. Poe’s problem is to approximate the Logos as far as he can with the limited language at his disposal. The problem is as much one of semantics as of style, and Poe confronts it with what I shall call “reductive” and “expansive” strategies in language. The first involves a movement toward a denotatively precise language of expository discourse which seeks accurate statements about the apprehensible universe, the second, a movement toward a figurative, suggestive language of imaginative discourse which points toward the sublime realm beyond sensible data.

Poe moves from reductive to expansive strategy in Eureka to chart the course of achieving the truly sublime vision. He passes through the same stages that Hussey finds in a number of the tales: first, to “disentangle the mysteries of earthly flux and mutability”; second, to “envision the super-sensual realm”; and third, to “search for material analogues for [the] immaterial visions” (p. 38). With his reductive strategy Poe disentangles some of earth’s mysteries while confronting language’s limited ability to do so. Having shown his audience these limits, he then employs his expansive strategy in an attempt to find “material analogues” for the sublime mysteries beyond those of the earth. I derive the term “expansive” from Dawson Gaillard’s valuable discussion of Poe’s attempt to extend the limits of language and to fight “restrictive terminology” (6). I hope to show, however, as Gaillard does not, that Poe’s concern with language tends toward finding precise definitions as well as toward resisting them. Only by considering Eureka’s use of these two traditionally opposed dimensions of language can we understand Poe’s attack on the semantic issues his subject raises.


These issues, as we have noted, question the possibility of Poe’s finding a language adequate to his task. From Gaillard’s argument that the universe’s return to unity in Eureka is a return to the Logos, we must conclude that the work points beyond the multiplicity of relation which language expresses toward the “absolute Irrelation” (XVI, 241) where all words are synonymous. Even in the middle ground from which Poe writes, hoping to incorporate particular detail and holistic vision (7), the vocabulary that his [page 2:] subject matter demands often consists of words for which a literal meaning, a meaning based on human experience, is impossible. Poe points out that many of his terms lack the most common level of semantic reference and merely stand “for the possible attempt at an impossible conception” (XVI, 200).

Here “possible attempt” refers specifically to “any one of that class of terms to which ‘Infinity’ belongs — the class representing thoughts of thought” (XVI, 203) — a class revealing much about Poe’s attitude toward language in Eureka. Eureka instructs us to remember that words are approximations on which we cannot afford to place ultimate dependence. Indeed, many ideas and processes are knowable only as words or as rhetorical effects. The conception of infinitely fine matter, for example, is an act of the mind, only formulated into a tangible point of reference by the “matter” of words. Thus, because we cannot direct our thoughts toward a fixed object or sensation but only toward a point in “the intellectual Firmament,” the actual phenomena to which our language conventionally refers remain a mystery and words stand only as functional approximations of meaning. Poe’s problem is to achieve both the rhetorical effects necessary to convey his ideas as well as the precise definitions necessary to clarify the misunderstandings into which assumptions about the neat referentiality of language lead.

In assuming that a word and its referent have a clearly dovetailed, one-to-one correspondence, we deceive ourselves in order to achieve an intellectually manageable view of the universe. We pretend to conceive infinity in response eo the difficulty of conceiving limited space, although Poe thought that we can actually conceive neither. Poe observes further that, in confusing “difficulty” with “impossibility,” “even profound thinkers, time out of mind, have occasionally taken pleasure in deceiving themselves “ (XVI, 200) that they have entertained an impossible concept. The fact that there is a word for the concept only encourages this self-deceit.

Such imprecise use of words is what Poe calls, with some contempt, “the common understanding of the words” (XVI, 222). It gives rise to serious errors of judgment, ideas “grossly unphilosophical, although so supinely adopted” (XVI, 254). The “vulgar version of the law” of gravity, for example, limits our understanding, but if we employ “a more philosophical phraseology . . . a flood of suggestion bursts upon the mind” (XVI, 215). (As will be seen, the “reductive” strategy, which seeks precise denotation while recognizing the boundaries of denotation, dears the way for “expansive” thought and its accompanying figurative language.) In the case of gravity, even our “sensitive perception,” the basis of most of our language, deceives us:

I mean to assert that the merely sensitive perception of gravity as we experience it on Earth, beguiles mankind into the fancy of concentralization or especiality respecting it — has been continually biasing towards this fancy even the mightiest intellects — perpetually, although imperceptibly, leading them away from the real characteristics of the principle. (XVI, 217)

Similarly “clusters” of stars go under the misnomer of “nebulae” (XVI, 270) because we cannot see what they are. If [column 2:] our senses are deficient, or at best limited, then so too is our language.

Poe also tries to show how men fail to recognize the limitations of the ostensibly precise language of logic and scientific discourse. Baconians abuse the words “fact,” “theorize,” “hypothesis”; logicians base their work on “axioms” when “no such, things as axioms ever existed or can possibly exist at all “ (XVI, 192); man has “grossly irrational definitions of proof “ ( XVI, 215); and even Poe’s hero Laplace misuses the term “Cosmogony.” Poe frequency contrasts his own definitions with what to him is the lower, “ordinary meaning of the term” (XVI, 230). On the rare occasions when he feels constrained to use a word “in its ordinary sense,” he carefully remarks on its inadequacy: “I use the word ‘assumption’ in its ordinary sense; yet I maintain that even this my primary proposition, is very, very far indeed, from being really a mere assumption” ( XVI, 206) .

Time and again Poe comments not only on how an idea is reached but also on how it is phrased, since this phrasing often betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea. As Eureka progresses we thus become increasingly aware of the tenuous relationships among language thought, and the phenomenal world. Hussey presents a useful analysis of Poe’s rhetorical stances in Eureka, focusing on the ways in which Poe manipulates tone to win over his audience. One should add that Poe attempts this task while constancy reminding his readers that their understanding and use of language is “vulgar” and “common.” ‘What we commonly understand” by words is inadequate to Poe’s explanatory purposes, and so he asks us to follow him “boldly behind the vulgar thought” (XVI, 301) to achieve more precise definitions.


In highlighting the limitations of language and thought, as the following will show, Poe’s reductive strategy opens up another path to truth. He realizes that one cannot communicate precisely without recognizing the referential and functional limitations of language, and that we cannot think precisely without recognizing the limitations of inductive and deductive logic. Similarly one cannot suggest the sublime until language is sufficiently “simplified,” or cleansed of vulgar misuse, to point toward and not disguise the unspeakable, unthinkable areas beyond our minds and our words. At this point metaphor can function. So too can true leaps of thoughts occur, once one recognizes that intuitive “guessing” operates outside normal paths of logic.

The above outlines the purpose of what I have called Poe’s “reductive” strategy in Eureka. Given the subject matter of this work, Poe’s audience will demand not only imaginative evocation but also clear explanation. Poe himself is desperate to achieve clarity, continually announcing this aim with what Hussey calls “scrupulous attention to his audience” (p. 39): “Now, distinctness — intelligibility, at all points, is a primary feature in my general design” (XVI, 199); “let me as distinctly as possible announce . . .” (XVI, 185). Obviously Poe is not simply arguing against restrictive terminology as Gaillard claims (8). Although he seeks “a more ample phraseology” (XVI, 221), he strives [page 3:] to combine it with the “reductive” exactitude necessary to fully clarify his argument, particularly those aspects of it which go beyond the limits of the empirically verifiable.

Because so much of Poe’s argument is not empirically verifiable, the issue of internal consistency becomes crucial to that of clarity. Much of Poe’s need for refining his audience’s conventional definitions is based on an effort to construct an internally consistent model of the universe. A model which can achieve a self-consistent pattern of interrelated terms will be clearly comprehensible in itself, independent of external referentiality. A poem and the universe are, for Poe, both models of this perfect consistency; indeed the universe itself “in the supremeness of its symmetry, is but the most sublime of poems” (XVI, 302). Further, a “poem” can have “the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem” ( XIV, 195) . In other words, it can possess the prime characteristic of Truth, the ability to satisfy the intellect (XIV, 290). Poe describes the language of Truth as follows: “In enforcing a truth, we need severity rather than efflorescence of language. We must be simple, precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, unimpassioned. In a word, we must be in that mood which, as nearly as possible, is the exact converse of the poetical” ( XIV, 272) .

The language of Truth, then, is the language of Poe’s reductive strategy — the relatively (not perfectly) simple language, functional in its precision but limited in its range, that we use to make as exact a statement as possible about the sensible world. To meet the needs unanswered by this language we use the language of Beauty. Throughout his critical prose, Poe defines Beauty not as an external quality but as an elevating effect in the soul, an experience of the sublime. It is an ideal, transcendent Beauty veiled by the forms of nature. Poetry is the struggle to grasp the sublime in the awareness that it cannot be grasped; its end is the evocation of supernal Beauty, and he who celebrates merely the beauty of the sensible world cannot claim the title of Poet. Thus “Poetry,” “Beauty” and “the sublime” are virtual synonyms for Poe, and the language of Beauty is that of his expansive strategy — the language which figuratively combines words rooted in the limitations of the sensible world to evoke a supersensible realm of experience.

But just as delineation of the material world holds a path to the immaterial realms, just as the reductive strategy in language holds a path to the expansive, so Truth holds a path to Beauty, a Beauty which is itself a higher Truth. Even at his most dogmatic, Poe never claims that Beauty and Truth cannot coexist in a poem, but simply that Beauty is a higher order of experience than Truth. In Eureka, however, this hierarchy becomes less insistent. He prefers Eureka to be judged for its aspirations to sublime beauty rather than for its didactic value, but the Beauty to which we respond, out of our instinct for symmetry, is the Beauty of Truth’s consistency:

It is the poetical essence of the universe — of the Universe which, in the supremeness of its symmetry, is but the most sublime of poems. Now symmetry and consistency are convertible terms: — thus Poetry and Truth are one. A thing is consistent in the ratio of its truth — true in the ratio of its consistency. A perfect consistency, I repeat, can be nothing but an absolute truth. (XVI, 302) [column 2:]

Poe thus reorients his audience to look less for didactic truth (the conventional criterion of the time for evaluating both poetry and prose) than for poetic truth, “the Beauty that abounds in its Truth; constituting it true” (XVI, 183). Under his new definition he can call a quasi-scientific prose treatise a poem, an art-work “which stimulates all human responses to a contemplation of Beauty” (9).

Poe’s redefinition of his thesis, “The Universe,” is as illuminating as his new definition of “Poem.” The “most comprehensive,” or expansive, definition of “Universe” is as “The utmost conceivable expanse of space, with all things, spiritual and material, that can be imagined to exist within the compass of the expanse” (XVI, 186). Poe also adopts, “with some mental reservation,” Pascal’s definition of “the Universe proper,” “the Universe of space,” as “‘a sphere of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere’” (XVI, 205). Distinct from this “Universe of space” is Poe’s new definition of the everyday use of “Universe,” a realm which men mistakenly assume to be unlimited, as “the Universe of stars” (XVI, 186). Here we see how reductive precision, which generally involves specifically pointing out limitations of reference, can also involve division of a vulgar term into reductive and expansive elements. The latter by definition cannot be precise, the former only precise about their limitations.

Thus Poe’s reductive strategy serves a number of functions in Eureka. It invites the reader to realign his own thought-patterns; it attempts to correct the common abuses of meaning into which our unconsidered use of language tempts us; it strives for internal consistency among its definitions; and it can paradoxically lead to “more ample phraseology” because its own limitations are now clear. An extended illustration of the last technique occurs in Poe’s treatment, via his “letter from the future,” of Bacon and Aristotle. He accuses these thinkers, to whom most readers would trace their definition of logical thought, of actually putting a stop “to all thinking, properly so called” (XVI, 190). He then lays out his own definition of thought as the ability to generalize, to use and “expand” facts as Baconians do not, by “seemingly intuitive leaps “ (XVI, 189) which have their own submerged logic. Despite his abiding quarrel with the Transcendentalists, Poe reaches Emerson’s conclusion that logic is “the procession or proportionate unfolding of the intuition’ (10). Whereas traditionally the prime characteristic of logic is its use of reasoning expressible in linguistic or mathematical statements, the processes of Poe’s intuitive deduction “are beyond the utterance of the human tongue” (XVI, 206). His definition demands a refined recognition of the limits that language places upon thought, which at its deepest levels must be the inexpressible guesswork of an “ardent imagination.” These assertions about intuitive logic lead Poe to use analogical or “expansive” synonyms for the traditional terms of logic. He states, for example, that Laplace works “dynamically and mathematically” ( XVI, 245), that “inferences” are “visions,” that an “idea” is a “phantom” and that to “infer” is to “imagine” (XVI, 275-276).

Such analogical or intuitive guesswork is not inconsistent with Poe’s aforementioned conviction that certain processes are knowable only as words because the processes themselves cannot be fully conceived and, therefore, adequately [page 4:] expressed. Even though the universe has limits and is thus theoretically intelligible, these limits can only be assumed, not known. Poe talks, for example, “of a certain inexpressibly great yet limited number of unimaginably yet not infinitely minute atoms” (XVI, 203). In his struggle to achieve even rudimentary semantic meaning, words like “inexpressibly” and “unutterably” are not mere ornaments but necessary qualifiers for dealing with a bewilderingly complex world. A strategy of reduction must lead toward precise delineation of the limitations of our language, which include specifications of its temporary, functional nature. Reductive statements clear the reader of mistaken assumptions that he knows what words mean so that the mystery of the universe can be revealed. This mystery, being beyond the limits of reductive denotation, can only be rendered as an effect induced by language, not as an external quality described by language. It can be intuitively experienced but nor demonstrated.

Because the operation of the universe is not a neat package of verifiable laws but is ultimately a mystery, so that “Nothing is demonstrable, strictly speaking” (XVI, 225), Poe must also seek to redefine the word “proof.” In view of the unreliability of the human senses and language, it is clear that “the so-called ‘ocular and physical proof’” (XVI, 216) bears the same limitations as reductive discourse. It is useful only for statements about “the actually existing Universe so far as it comes under our observation” but can say nothing about “the motions of an imaginary Universe” ( XVI, 215) beyond our observation. Surely, says Poe, “all must admit the deficiency of what we are in the habit of terming ‘proof’’ (XVI, 261), and all must admit the logic of intuition. Inevitably the new definition of proof will involve a new set of explanatory terms. In the following example, Poe extends the customary definition of gravity: “. . . some error might occasionally be avoided, in the future processes of Science, were a more ample phraseology adopted: — for instance: — ‘Each atom tends to every other atom &c. with a force &c: the general result being a tendency of all, with a similar force, to a general centre ‘” (XVI, 221). As he did with “Universe,” Poe divides “gravity” into reductive (Newton’s definition) and expansive (his own definition) elements He provides further examples in his discussion of “act” and “principle,” terms which by everyday misuse, reveal a logical misunderstanding of the universe. “The truly ultimate Principle” was actually a “primary act,” “an act for the establishment of what we now call principles.” “‘Principle,’ as we employ the word,” is actually nor an action but a reaction. Furthermore he deems it advisable “to limit the application of this word to the two immediate results of the discontinuance of the Divine Volition — that is, to the two agents, Attraction and Repulsion “ (XVI, 238). Upon these two “every other Natural agent depends, . . . and therefore would be more conveniently designated as sub-principle” (XVI, 238). Thus Poe’s limitation or reduction again results in more (and more precise) meanings. The deceptively simple word “principle” has been broken down into “act,” “principle” and “sub-principle.”

Poe’s use of synonyms or synonymic grammatical structures also shows his awareness of language’s functional nature and limited range. In Eureka synonym-seeking expressions [column 2:] like “in other words,” “that is to say,” “in a word,” “what is the same thing” enable Poe to move his argument along by verbal sleights of hand. They seek to set up a self-consistent structure of mutually-clarifying definitions, to fix a meaning by drawing on a number of other meanings. Poe thus notes, by illustration in the language itself, that his terms are functional, that equivalents will suffice. It is the insights behind the language that are crucial, and language must not be allowed to obstruct them.

Poe states in a throwaway footnote that “I prefer tautology to a chance of misconception” (XVI, 242). Toward the end of Eureka, he increasingly phrases his points in tautological formats, such as “symmetry and consistency are convertible terms” (XVI, 302). Even the language of other individuals becomes subsumed into Poe’s own as he acknowledges that his conclusions repeat those of Herschel — “‘The tendency to collapse’ [Herschel’s idea] and ‘the attraction of gravitation’ [Poe’s idea] are convertible phrases” (XVI, 301) — and of Nichol — “Were I to describe, in my own words, what must necessarily be the existing condition of each nebula on the hypothesis that all matter is, as I suggest, now returning to its original Unity, I should simply be going over, nearly verbatim, the language here employed by Dr. Nichol . . .” (XVI 398) (11). The significance of Poe’s tautology is that it redefines more exactly the terms that these scientists have used. He points out how his theory is consistent with but also how it qualifies other, more partial insights. In finding “convertible terms” within his own theory, he translates previous insights into his own self-consistent, clarified terminology.


As the above has shown, in establishing the limits of referential, scientific discourse, Poe clears the way for the reader’s accepting “the primacy of intuitive over analytical truths” implicit in his expansive strategy. As one might expect, Poe’s tendency toward metaphor and non-referentiality increases through the work as he becomes more sure of his audience. Hussey traces the crescendo through Poe’s various masks, from the persona of the earnest, modest truth seeker, then of the satirist of inductive and deductive logic, and finally of the coldly objective “master scholar” summarizing a wide range of scientific knowledge but simultaneously “undercutting [his] purported objectivity by his increasing use of metaphorical language.” Ultimately, the narrator “steps forward as entirely the man of transcendent vision” and opts for “entirely metaphorical diction” (12).

In suggesting that Poe “dramatizes the versatility of language,” Gaillard (p. 45) fails to note that Poe never relinquishes the reductive use of language but rather places it in relation to the expansive. The terms belong to a dichotomy familiar in discussions of language functions. The “reductive” side of the dichotomy features such words as “scientific,” “rational,” “discursive,” “expository,” “analytic,” “restrictive.” The “expansive” side features “imaginative “ “hypothetical,” “metaphorical,” “integrative,” “open-ended.” Hussey’s findings are again useful in clarifying the “expansive” side. He observes that the metaphorical diction of Eureka’s finale expresses a “decidedly un-scientific pantheism” (p. 40) — unscientific because it is a non-verifiable ( hence “hypothetical”) philosophy. Furthermore the expansive [page 5:] strategy expresses powerful feeling, in contrast to the scientific self-effacement of the reductive strategy. I have shown that the reductive strategy employs a self-enclosed system characterized by the analytical division of one term into multiple components and that it assumes the limits of perception and language. The optimistic vision of the expansive strategy, however, is based not on empirical observation of man’s flaws but on intuitive (or “imaginative”) celebration of his suprasensible potential. It assumes no limits (hence it is “open-ended”) and its guiding principle is not Multiplicity but Oneness (hence it is “integrative”).

In illustrating this overall movement from the reductive to the expansive use of language, toward an increased use of metaphor, we should note that Eureka takes an expansive movement in many of its particular details. Poe’s diction frequently moves from the causal to the hypothetical — “the consequences — the conclusions — the suggestions — the speculations” (XVI, 187); from the flat to the hyperbolic — “all mere roads — the great thoroughfare — the majestic highway” ( XVI, 196); from the scientific to the metaphorical —

But, on every successive rejection of the crust, the new surface would appear incandescent as before, and the period at which it would again become so far incrusted as to be readily loosened and discharged, may well be imagined as exactly coincident with that at which a new effort would be needed, by the whole mass, to restore the equilibrium of its two forces, disarranged through condensation. In other words: — by the time the electric influence (Repulsion) has prepared the surface for rejection, we are to understand that the gravitating influence ( Attraction) is precisely ready to reject it. Here, then, as everywhere, the Body and the Soul walk hand in hand. (XVI, 256)

His definitions move from the technical to the philosophical: “Discarding now the two equivocal terms, ‘gravitation’ and ‘electricity.’ let us adopt the more definite expressions, ‘attraction’ and ‘repulsion.’ The former is the body, the latter the soul: the one is the material; the other the spiritual, principle of the Universe” (XVI, 213-214). These passages do not follow the synonym process discussed earlier of dividing one “reductive” term into multiple terms, such as breaking down “principle” into “act,” “principle” and “sub-principle.” Instead the synonyms shift toward expansion, becoming decreasingly referential.

Poe further expands his language by using words of life and consciousness in an abstract, discursive context. He humanizes a dense, discursive passage on the movement of atoms with the statement that “in the direction of the centre lies the utmost possibility of satisfaction, generally. for its [each atom’s] own individual appetite” (XVI, 235). Similarly he attributes to atoms the “phaenomena of vitality, consciousness and Thought” (XVI, 213) in his discussion of gravity, talking of “brotherhood,” “parentage” and ‘’sympathy’ (13).

In mixing the terms of logic and imagination, then, Poe does not devalue reductive language but rather places it in relationship to the expansive. By juxtaposing the literal and metaphorical, the referential and analogical, the two extremes of the possibilities of language, he attempts to create in his readers the sensitivity necessary to follow where he leads. He couches Truth in both suggestive and expository [column2:] terms to fulfill his definition of Eureka as a poem appealing both to soul and to intellect — indeed, the combination of polar uses of language in the work organically mirrors the processes that it describes: like attraction and repulsion, like Body and Soul, the two walk hand in hand. They are not, however, one. In the middle ground, in the present state of the universe that Poe must confront, his twin linguistic strategies have different but related purposes: the reductive moves the reader toward recognition of the irreducible semantic limitations of referential language, freeing him to approach analogically, with full awareness of its mystery, the realm of the unthinkable and unspeakable constituted by the full symmetry of the universe, that “most sublime of poems.”



(1) Eureka, text from Complete Works, XVI, 185. All references to Poe’s works are to this edition, parenthetically in the text. All italics are Poe’s.

(2) “Narrative and Classical Rhetoric in Eureka,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 26 (1975), 37-42, also appears in Poe as Literary Cosmologer, Studies on Eureka: A Symposium, ed. Richard P. Benton (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1975), pp. 37-42. John H. Mackin Classical Rhetoric for Modern Discourse (New York: Free Press 19G9), p. 19, explains that the’’epideictic” subject in classical oratory concerns “an aspect of things or events that transcends time”; Hussey, p. 41, adds that it “came to be associated with timeless values and virtues.”

(3) Hugh Blair, D.D., Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. Harold F. Harding (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1965), I, 77.

(4) “Poe and the Sublime: His Two Short Sea Tales in the Context of an Aesthetic Tradition,” Criticism, 17 (1975), 137.

(5) Schiller associated the term “beautiful” with a genius of the body and the term “sublime” with a genius of the spirit, beyond the limits of nature. Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1970), p. 247, defines the sublime as “the enthusiasm for the ideal”, and he observes, p. 245, that “Re-examined as a type of idealist thought, not as subjectivism, the sublime appears to provide a cosmology for the poet.”

(6) “Poe’s Eureka The Triumph of the Word,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 26 (1975), 42-46; also appears in Poe as Literary Cosmologer.

(7) Hussey, p. 38, remarks that Poe’s more visionary narrators adopt a medium perspective in their subjects:’’Whether they are exploring the nature of earthly or unearthly reality, they first need to find the proper middle distance from it: neither too close (as in ‘The Sphinx’) nor too far away.”

(8) Gaillard, p. 44, too readily assumes that Poe is concerned solely with “poetic” language in Eureka He attributes too unconditionally to Poe the belief that “scientific and utilitarian language had torn the sensory images, the possibilities for exaltation, from our word hoard.”

(9) A. D. Van Nostrand, Everyman His Own Poet: Romantic Gospels in American Literature (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968), p. 219.

(10) The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1904), 11, 329. See Gerald M. Garmon, “Emerson’s ‘Moral Sentiment’ and Poe’s ‘Poetic Sentiment’: A Reconsideration,” Poe Studies, 6 (1973), 19-21.

(11) This unifying process also occurs on the rhetorical level. Hussey, p. 39, observes that Poe becomes less and less separate from his audience as he replaces “I” with “we.”

(12) All quotations in the paragraph are from Hussey, p. 40.

(13) Hussey, p. 40, uses similar evidence to make a similar point.


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