Eureka: A Prose Poem

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Metaphysical work by Poe, published in 1848.

Based on the author's reading in Newton, Laplace, and others, the work accepts intuition, as well as induction and deduction, among legitimate paths to knowledge. Unity and diffusion are truths, because they are felt to be so, and “irradiation, by which alone these two truths are reconciled, is a consequent truth—I perceive it.” The universe, composed of atoms radiated outward from a primary divine unity to an almost infinite variety, is conceived to be governed by the complementary laws of attraction and repulsion, in terms of which all phenomena are explicable. This is shown by mathematical proof, and by reference to the principles of heat, light, and electricity. This view of a harmoniously ordered, perfect universe is then extended in a discussion of literary criticism, especially applied to fiction. “In the construction of plot … we should aim at so arranging the incidents that we shall not be able to determine, of any one of them, whether it depends from any one other or upholds it.” The view has also an ethical application: “God—the material and spiritual God—now exists solely in the diffused Matter and Spirit of the Universe,” and the regathering of these elements will reconstitute “the purely Spiritual and individual God,” so that the operations of “Divine Injustice” or “Inexorable Fate” may at last be understood. We “no longer rebel at a Sorrow which we ourselves have imposed upon ourselves,” and “in this view alone the existence of Evil becomes intelligible … it becomes endurable.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Edgar Allan Poe (1809—1849) American short-story writer, poet, and critic

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