Abstract

In 1969, Robert D. Jacobs broke new ground with Poe: Journalist and Critic, the first truly inclusive study of the critical writings that Edgar Allan Poe produced throughout his career. According to Jacobs, those texts could not be understood apart from the journalistic world in which Poe wrote them and without reference to the principles on which he relied while evaluating literary works. Those laws derived from Common Sense philosophy, and of particular importance to Poe, Jacobs argued, was the notion that three faculties—the reason, the moral sense, and the taste—directed mental life. Responsive to pleasure, the taste allowed a person to appreciate art, so Poe’s insistence on unity was tied to the belief that all the elements within in a work of literature would please if they had a single, focused effect on the reader. Enlightenment-era psychology was, in short, central to Poe’s critical practice, the development of which Jacobs mapped throughout Poe: Journalist and Critic—a work that has become a classic in the field. Attending to Poe’s work as a writer for magazines, Jacobs not only stimulated scholarly interest in Poe’s critical reviews but also encouraged the examination of his writings as products of nineteenth-century print culture. Seminal in Poe studies, Poe: Journalist and Critic remains useful for anyone who wants to know Poe as he was in life rather than legend.

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