Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

E. Arthur Robinson


This thesis is primarily concerned with Edgar Allan Poe's application of his aesthetic philosophies to his poetic writings. In particular, the extent to which the selected poems are successful in attaining or simulating the attainment of supernal beauty is examined. The ideas herein dealt with are those having to do with Poe's reaching for the ethereal world of the imagination through his art. While specific poems are analyzed with respect to his critical writings, this thesis never assumes that his poetry was nothing save a practical exercise of those theories. The selected poems are explored with regard to their validity as art of the highest order where Poe's idea of the supernal is the aesthetic measuring device. The poems dealt with are "The Bells," "The Sleeper" and "Israfel"--each being indicative of larger groupings of Poe's poems.

An analysis of what Poe meant by "supernal beauty" is undertaken in order to establish something of a foundation on which to construct a case for the several poems as vehicles to an appreciation of the ethereal imaginative world. By comparing the poems, and analyzing each in terms of the critical writings, an evaluation of Poe's use of artistic methods is undertaken. These methods are enumerated in Chapter II. Dealing with Poe as a completely rounded artist rather than only as a poet was rewarding in that it led to the formulation of the theory that an appropriate sensory focus is necessary to an understanding of the supernal state. This focus theory, based on one of the tales ("The Sphinx"), became applicable in an infinite number of places. The major contribution of this thesis lies in the surf acing of this theory of interior focus and its relevance in the study of Poe's aesthetic philosophies as they relate to his own poetry.

It is my contention that an understanding of Poe's sensory focus must first be mastered before one may expect to understand his spiritual release into the realm of the supernally beautiful. The three major poems herein dealt with require conscientious purging of the soul before they can reasonably be expected to succeed as vehicles in the search after ethereal loveliness. The examination of the poems is based on this sort of aesthetic open-mindedness and is centered in Poe's own critical work.



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