The Fall of the House of Usher

The Influence of Edgar Allan Poe's Predecessors on His Work

It is, arguably, a fallacy to use the word 'influence' when considering how Poe developed the Gothic genre in his own literature in light of his predecessors. The overtones of 'derivation' in the word risk unfairly discrediting the influence that Poe himself had on the genre. It should not be forgotten that Poe is widely credited as being one of the earliest authors to consolidate the American Gothic into a more potent and tangible form. In considering the influence of his predecessors, it is therefore most conducive to examine how Poe built upon, and indeed improved, the legacy of European and American Gothic literature that went before him.

At the risk of drawing arbitrary comparisons, the stylistic traits of Gothic fiction that Poe inherits are almost instantly obvious in both his works and those of his predecessors. In her book The Coherence of Gothic Conventions, Eve Sedgwick lists several "certain characteristic preoccupations" of Gothic fiction, amongst which she includes "doubles ... unnatural echoes or silences, unintelligible writings, and the unspeakable ... nocturnal landscapes" and the "story within a story", all of which can be traced through Gothic heritage to Poe....

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