If we are to position Poe’s concept of “graphicality” as hovering at the juncture between the verbal and the visual—a gesture toward painting at the same time that it indicates a literary art of description, or ekphrasis—criticism has tended to overlook the centrality of Emanuel Swedenborg’s so-called “doctrine of correspondences” within American art discourses of the 1830s and ’40s. This essay explores the corresponding Swedenborgian valences behind Poe’s own graphicality, putting his work in context of three critical figures in Poe’s orbit who respectively mediated, to one degree or another, Swedenborgian theories: George Bush, the mesmerist and New York University professor of Hebrew and Oriental languages; Thomas Holley Chivers, the southern poet, and close friend of Poe’s; and finally, Christopher Pearse Cranch, the landscape painter. The essay concludes with a brief close reading of Poe’s iconic tale “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the only published work in Poe which explicitly mentions a book by Swedenborg (his “spiritualist” classic from 1758, Heaven and Hell).

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