The West Point classmate who appreciated Poe as a “fellow of talent” assumed that he would be “too mad a poet to like Mathematics” (PL 114). Mad or not, Poe began his lifelong interest in mathematics by standing a respectable seventeenth in his math class of eighty-seven cadets. Throughout his career he maintained a continual thread of logical and mathematical awareness in his detective tales, science fiction, Eureka, and criticism, in counterpoint to their Gothic elements. To follow up on the unprecedented success of “The Raven,” Poe surprised his readers with the mathematical claim in “The Philosophy of Composition” that he had written “The Raven” by following a few logical precepts: “No one point in its composition is referrable either to accident or intuition—that the work proceeded, step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem” (L2 61–62).

Poe experienced in...

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