Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3094 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 9  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Literature

Edgar Allan Poe's Influence On The Detective Genre

Most modern readers will readily recognize the name, Edgar Allan Poe, and will know that he wrote a number of famous books and stories such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," but few may realize the substantive contributions that Poe made overall to the detective genre itself in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" which is cited by some authorities as the first true detective story. Indeed, some authorities suggest that characters such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character, Sherlock Holmes and a number of popular televisions shows are based on Poe's earlier influences. Despite his obvious contributions to the detective story, there remains some debate concerning Poe precise contributions to the larger detective genre. In order to shed some modern light on this seminal author, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to examine Poe's influence on the detective genre, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and DiscussionBuy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
for $19.77

Research Paper on Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction Assignment

A prolific author despite his relatively short life, Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 and died when he was just 40 years old in 1849 (Pollin 535). In his analysis of the influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Pollin (1999) cites the abundant evidence for Poe as an "inspirer of themes and prosodic style, an example of personal courage and originality, an unconventional prober into new or 'non-poetic' areas of society and of science" (535). Based on his numerous detective-style mysteries, it is not surprising that Poe's work has been cited as being highly influential on the overall genre, but some authorities maintain that he is solely responsible for its creation. For instance, Scaggs (2005) reports that, "The general critical consensus is that the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, the 'father' of the detective genre" (7). Although the defining hallmarks that would come to characterize the detective genre are attributed by Scaggs and others to Poe, there is a general consensus that Poe's work was influenced by earlier authors. In this regard, Scaggs adds that, "Crime fiction, however, of which Poe's detective stories form a subset, has a much earlier provenance" (7). In fact, the "earlier provenance" includes two Old Testament stories dating to the 4th century BCE (Scaggs 8).

Although researchers remained divided on the precise influences that affected Poe's writing style, many authorities suggest the Voltaire was the most important. For instance, according to Cambaire (1927), "Poe's real predecessor in detective-story writing seems to have been Voltaire" (262). Likewise, Matthews (1907) maintains that, "The only predecessor with a good claim to be considered a progenitor is Voltaire in whose Zadig we can find the method which Poe was to apply more elaborately" (290). The method to which Matthews alludes directly contributed to the development of the detective genre around the fin de siecle, with Poe leading the way. According to the dictionary entry for the term, a genre is "a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content" (55). As the prototypical detective character, Deloche and Oguer suggest that modern researchers would not have far to go when looking for a good example in Zadig. In their analysis of Poe's influence on detective stories, Deloche and Oguer report that:

Regarding detective literature, the appearance, in 1841, of 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' written by Poe (1809-1849), marked the birth of the detective story. More precisely, Poe's three detective stories -- 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' 'The Mystery of Marie Roget,' and 'The Purloined Letter' are pioneer works. However, Chevalier Auguste Dupin, the hero of these three 'Tales of Mystery and Ratiocination,' is not the first detective character appearing in a literary work. For example, the central character of Zadig ou la Destinee [Voltaire, (1747) 1998] has the 'quasi-divinatory skills' that Poe gives to Dupin. Moreover, Poe is generally thought to have been influenced by the Memoires of Francois Eugene Vidocq, who in 1817 founded the world's first detective bureau, in Paris. (97)

Nevertheless, the historical record goes on to confirm that the detective genre would, over time, manifest all of these categories of the humanities in artistic, musical, or literary works in some form or fashion, the seminal literary compositions by Poe were clearly formative for the overall detective genre. For instance, Cambaire cites an entry from two early reviewers who "perceived this descent of Poe from Voltaire when they recorded in their Journal that the strange tales of the American poet seemed to them to belong to a 'new literature, the literature of the twentieth century, scientifically miraculous story-telling by a + B, a literature at once monomaniac and mathematical, Zadig as district attorney, Cyrano de Bergerac as a pupil of Arago'" (Goncourts 56). Here again, though, there remains some divisiveness concerning the extent of Poe's contributions to the detective story as part of the larger genre. Although Scaggs maintains that Poe was heavily influenced by earlier writers, Magistrale (2001) suggests that it was Poe's own work that helped define the body of detective literature. In this regard, Magistrale emphasizes that, "It is certain that Poe's major reputation and greatest influence as a writer come as a result of his contributions as a Gothic artist. But there are many Poes, and one of the most important is Poe the creator of the detective story, a genre that employs rational processes as a counterpoint to the terror and madness that characterize the typical Gothic tale" (21).

Although "terror and madness" are not restricted to Gothic tales, there were some distinct differences between the Gothic and detective genres that Poe helped to define. According to Magistrale, "From the eighteenth century, Poe inherited both the Gothic repudiation of a rational and ordered universe by forces beyond our ability to control (the creation of the horror story) and the Neoclassical impulse toward reason and rationality as embodied in the creation of the detective tale" (21). Some of the enormous and sustained popularity of the detective genre, then, is the ability of otherwise-normal humans to rise to the occasion and solve even the most perplexing mysteries if they are methodical and meticulous in their approach to solving crime. As Magistrale points out, "Unlike the Gothic's tendency toward chaos and upheaval, the detective story confronts worldly chaos with a rational mind still left working from the Age of Reason. If the Gothic monster is in rebellion from the order that characterized the eighteenth century, the detective suggests that the rational mind is powerful enough to overcome even the darkest urges of human nature" (21).

This is powerful stuff, of course, but it highlights the essence of the detective genre and its ability to evoke a responsive chord in modern audiences. For instance, in his analysis of the contributions of Poe to the detective genre, Lewis (1994) reports that, "The process of detection is initiated when the detective assesses the situation and amasses clues, usually by a combination of patient observation and logical deduction. In this respect, second generation cynical sleuths, such as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, obtain financial rather than intellectual satisfaction from their work. Nevertheless, it is Edgar Allan Poe's character August Dupin [who is] the prototype of the old school of detectives" (54). Indeed, Magistrale 2001) also cites Poe's character, August Dupin, as serving as the basis for countless subsequent characters in the detective genre. According to Magistrale, contributing to the modern detective genre was "Poe's detective fiction, and in particular C. Auguste Dupin, the world's first literary sleuth" (21). It was Dupin, Magistrale suggests, that first exhibited the characteristics that would define the analytical processes that were used to solve crimes and identify the perpetrators, features that would be identifiable in numerous famous detectives. For instance, Magistrale notes that Poe's "most significant contribution to the art of crime solving is his mental acuity -- a higher form of reasoning that permits him insights into criminal activity that others have overlooked or dismissed as irrelevant" (21).

Notwithstanding the attributions of the detective genre in its entirety to Poe by some modern authorities, Magistrale suggests that a more accurate description would be that Poe helped to establish an overall framework in which others would take his work and add their own approaches, but a number of common themes emerged in the genre that were clearly influenced by Poe's literary devices. For instance, Magristrale reports that, "It seems evident that when [Poe's] work became known to the French, they found what may be called a very well prepared ground, as they were reaching an end that several French writers have been striving to attain, and creating a new genre that had already been announced, but not perfected, and which the reading public was ready to accept with eagerness and delight" (22).

In fact, there are many parallels between the methods used by Dupin and the detectives who would follow, but there are some other similarities as well that can be identified in world-famous sleuths such as Sherlock… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

Two Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?
1.  Buy full paper (10 pages)Download Microsoft Word File

Download the perfectly formatted MS Word file!

- or -

2.  Write a NEW paper for me!✍🏻

We'll follow your exact instructions!
Chat with the writer 24/7.

Edgar Allen Poe the Controversial American Poet Term Paper

Edgar Allen Poe and Psychology Term Paper

Edgar Allen Poe and His Narrators Term Paper

Art Representing Life in the Murders Thesis

Decadent Style Term Paper

View 200+ other related papers  >>

How to Cite "Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction.  (2012, May 6).  Retrieved February 28, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/edgar-allan-poe-influence-detective/98872

MLA Format

"Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction."  6 May 2012.  Web.  28 February 2020. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/edgar-allan-poe-influence-detective/98872>.

Chicago Style

"Edgar Allan Poe's Influence on Detective Fiction."  Essaytown.com.  May 6, 2012.  Accessed February 28, 2020.