Note for American Literature

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"The Philosophy of Composition" is an 1846 essay written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe that elucidates a theory about how good writers write when they write well. He concludes that length, "unity of effect" and a logical method are important considerations for good writing. He also makes the assertion that "the death... of a beautiful woman" is "unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world". Poe uses the composition of his own poem "The Raven" as an example. The essay first appeared in the April 1846 issue of Graham's Magazine. It is uncertain if it is an authentic portrayal of Poe's own method
Poe's philosophy of composition
Generally, the essay introduces three of Poe's theories regarding literature. The author recounts this idealized process by which he says he wrote his most famous poem, "The Raven" to illustrate the theory, which is in deliberate contrast to the "spontaneous creation" explanation put forth, for example, by Coleridge as an explanation for his poem Kubla Khan. Poe's explanation of the process of writing is so rigidly logical, however, that some have suggested the essay was meant as a satire or hoax.[1]

The three central elements of Poe's philosophy of composition are:

[edit] LengthPoe believed that all literary works should be short. "There is," he writes, "a distinct limit... to all works of literary art - the limit of a single sitting." He especially emphasized this "rule" with regards to poetry, but also noted that the short story is superior to the novel for this reason.

[edit] MethodPoe dismissed the notion of artistic intuition and argued that writing is methodical and analytical, not spontaneous. He writes that no other author has yet admitted this because most writers would "positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes... at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair... at the cautious selections and rejections."

[edit] "Unity of effect"The essay states Poe's conviction that a work

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