Home » Fantasy and the human mind » Hawthorne and Poe

Hawthorne and Poe

The Raven (Credit : Wikimedia)

Continuing with the on line course with Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World  by Eric Rabkin.  The reading list for this week were some short stories and poems  from Hawthorne & Poe. For Hawthorne’s we read from Mosses from an Old Manse including “The Birthmark,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and “The Artist of the Beautiful” and from his Twice-Told Tales we read “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”. For Poe we read from The Portable Poe  the stories were “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” “The Oval Portrait,” “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” “The Bells,” “The Raven,”.

Mr. Rabkin explained that each story had enough information for an essay and that we could chose any one or several stories. He was quite right. I found so much that could be said. I found some information about Poe’s life on Wikipedia and became interested in how his life was reflected in his work.  He had quite a tragic life losing many people who were close to him early on. His relationship with his young cousin who became his wife was particularity tragic and he was very affected by her early death.

Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.

Here is the essay that I submitted which received a very wonderful 5.5.


Poe explores the interconnectedness of life and death.

Poe’s writing was affected by the early deaths of his mother, step-mother, brother and young wife, Virginia.

“The Raven” starts with, “Once upon a…” A fairy tale beginning that soon descends into madness. The death of his love, Lenore, the entrance of the raven (a symbol of death), and its repeated refrain “nevermore” convince the narrator  he will “Nevermore” leave the raven’s shadow and will join Lenore. When Poe wrote this he knew his wife would never leave the shadow of tuberculosis.

In “The Fall of The House of Usher”, Usher is first seen reclining on a sofa, avoiding light and eating little. The house and his inaction within it reflect Madeline’s tomb. Usher’s solitariness parallels Poe’s after his mother and step-mother died and his father and step-father abandoned him.

“The Oval Portrait”, written two years after his wife’s death, compares the permanence of art with the impermanence of life. Full of life when the picture was started, the “tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sat beside him.”  As the picture is finished, the artist declares “this is indeed Life itself!” and his wife dies. In a reversal of the story, Virginia’s portrait was painted a few hours after death as though to bring life back to the dead through art.

The narrator of “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” mesmerises his patient, (dying from the same disease as Virginia), at the moment of death. This delays the body’s deterioration and captures Valdemar’s soul, who begs the audience to let his corpse die. The experiment resulted in an explicitly detailed, repugnant but longed for death.

Poe revives the memory of the dead, a dead lover, sister, wife and patient. The memory is strong enough to stir deep feelings and even to bring back life. He shows us how close we are to death and the power the dead maintain over the living.


Works cited:

Please note that this essay is written in British English.

Sources of information:

Stories from – The Portable Edgar Allan Poe – http://mikicafilolosko.pbworks.com/f/The+Portable+Edgar+Allan+Poe.pdf

Stories from -Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories and Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne (word limit prevented comments on these equally excellent stories)

Information about  Edgar Allan Poe from Wikepedia. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe

Information about Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe from Wikepedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Eliza_Clemm_Poe


Peer Review 

The review process is split into three parts.

Part one FORM

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the FORM of the essay you have just read.  FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct?  Are the words properly used?  Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly?  An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Great essay, but you shouldn’t cite wikipedia 🙂 In each writing course I’ve enrolled instructors say that it’s not a reliable source.
peer 2 → Good writing, good structure, interesting thesis well supported by arguments… I think your text is formally brilliant.
peer 3 → The sentences are grammatically correct and the words are used properly. The exposition and argument are laid out clearly. The compare/contrast worked very well for this essay.
peer 4 → You present a strong thesis (Poe’s exploration of interconnectedness of life and death). However, the transition into your argument is choppy.

Please grade the FORM of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct? Are the words properly used? Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly? An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Everyone should strive for perfect grammar. However, if someone writes in ways that are particularly vivid or uses particularly incisive key terms to focus the argument or in some other way is outstanding in usage or structure, that essay should be awarded a 3 but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2.5


Part two CONTENT

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the CONTENT of the essay you have just read. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 2 → Your text is original and deep. I can not ask for more. Your idea to show how like and writing are interconnected in these examples is awesome and you have made an extra effort to find for additional information.
peer 3 → This essay shows a deep understanding of Poe’s feelings while writing his stories.
peer 4 → You demonstrate through your examples both Poe’s interest in exploring and also his means of expressing the relation of the living to the dead.

Please grade the CONTENT of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Most people will offer their readers a new insight and some detailed reference to the text that argues for the significance of that insight and for an appreciation of how that detail functions, so most essays will enrich our reading and earn a 2. Some essays will be astonishingly new or persuasive or useful by making the story much richer and even by helping you understand better how to read stories in general. Such essays earn a 3 in Content, but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part three COMMENTS 

Please write here any other comments which you feel might be of use to you or the writer of this essay.
peer 2 → Congratulations! Keep on!
peer 4 → I think a little more time and thought would have produced a very solid and meaningful essay.

What I will take forward. 

As the course continues I realize more and more the variation in the grading system. I think that from now on what I will take forward is the knowledge that I am never going to please everyone. I enjoyed these stories and in particular Poe – his dark poem The Raven haunts me.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: