Abstract

In “The Philosophy of Composition” (1848), Edgar Allan Poe rejects the Romantic notion that such works as “The Raven” are arrived at by “accident or intuition”; rather, he claims his own composing of the poem “proceeded, step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem.” Establishing the procedures and functions that will govern the poem's construction, Poe anticipates today's object-oriented programming (OOP) procedures. In doing so, he provides us a programmer's guide to “The Raven.” Portrayed as a pure machine, programmed to operate with minimal human intervention, his essay must negotiate the looping errors and stack overflow dangers that bedevil modern-day coders. Moreover, the claimed order of operations between the essay and poem, increasingly untenable, leads Poe to offload on to his readers the poem's “excess of meaning.”

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