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Eureka

Eureka (Hardcover) by Edgar Allan Poe (Author), Stuart Levine (Editor), Susan F. Levine (Author)

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Summary

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Originally published in 1848, Edgar Allen Poe's Eureka stands as the single most important expression of the philosophic views on which all of his literary endeavors depend. Put in the context of Melville's Moby Dick, Thoreau's Walden, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and the music of Liszt and Wagner, it is an explosive, startlingly unconventional creation of the High Romantic era.

Representing Poe's fantastical thoughts on how the universe was formed and what its future might be, this user-friendly critical edition is also the first to put Eureka in proper context. It includes Poe's proposed emendations to the text and sources and explains the setting in which it was produced, tying Eureka to world trends in philosophy and fast-breaking news in astronomy.

To compile this definitive text, the Levines traveled to the special collections departments of various libraries to examine Poe's own notes on the various drafts. They also consulted with Poe scholars, classicists, and historians of astronomy. The result of their meticulous scholarship is a deep, broad, and thoroughly useful volume, essential for Poe scholars and valuable to anyone interested in American literature or the roots of science fiction.

Reviews

4 out of 5 stars Poe's Pinnacle Work on the Creation of the Universe, September 29, 2003

By Brett J. Millan "Anthro1992" (McAllen, TX USA) (REAL NAME)    

This review is from: Eureka (Hesperus Classics) (Paperback)

Written in 1848, Eureka, one of Edgar Allan Poe's last works, propounds his theory of the creation of the material and spiritual universe. In his preface, Poe says "...it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged after I am dead." However, a reader would find it hard to consider Eureka a poem of any sort when the author spends three-quarters of the work expounding, through philosophical proof, a scientific belief in an essay format. Poe's belief is that "Gravity exists on account of Matter's having been radiated, at its origin, atomically, into a limited sphere of Space, from one, individual, unconditional, irrelative, and absolute Particle Proper, by the sole process in which it was possible to satisfy, at the same time, the two conditions, radiation and equable distribution throughout the sphere-that is to say, by a force varying in direct proportion with the squares of the distances between the radiated atoms, respectively, and the Particular centre of Radiation."

As a scientific or philosophical discourse on astronomy, Eureka is a work ahead of its time. Poe went step by step using undeniable comparisons, similar to a geometric proof, to conclude with the aforementioned statement. He begins by proposing his theme that "In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation." He means that through the only Ultimate Principle-the Volition of God, the Universe was created. Within this creation there is an inherited yearning to return to the Original Unity. Poe further explains his theory which is extremely similar to the Big Bang Theory. During creation, the Will of God produced a reaction within a finite space, causing the Original Unity to separate and disperse (or radiate). After the force of creation, "Gravity", an equal but opposite force began to exert itself. This force, proven through Newtonian experimentation, is now contracting the universe back into the "One" or "Original Unity." That is how Poe explains the existence of Gravity along with the dispersion of galaxies, stars, planets, and moons.

But as a literary piece, most readers would drop the book within the first ten pages. Poe's diatribe succeeds in alienating the modern reader through his references to seemingly unknown astronomers and physicists from the 18th and 19th centuries such as Laplace, Comte, Dr. Nichol, Mädler, Lord Rosse, and many others. The usual motifs found in his short stories and poems are missing within the pages of Eureka. What is retained is his compounded clause sentence structure and his sense of self-worth. In many instances, Poe describes scientists' discoveries as being correct, but driven by instinct instead of reason, unlike his own. Interestingly, throughout his essay, he uses the words Divine and God very often. It leads one to believe that since this is written at the end of his life, that maybe he has begun to fear what is to come. Yet this uncharacteristic Poe disappears in the last page in which he states that "Man will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah." Here Poe, the short story writer, returns as the curtain falls, letting us all know that there is no God but the Unity of ourselves, which of course includes himself.

4 out of 5 stars Very Interesting----Poe wrote this???!, September 7, 2005

By C. Reich "Business Physicist and Astronomer" (Northern, CA) (REAL NAME)    

Ok, I was shocked to see a science book written by Edgar Allan Poe. He himself calls it a poem...ok, Poe, poem.

I'm into astronomy so I thought, why not? Well, here's the thing. It strikes me as a serious work---a sort of explanation of how the Universe was seen in 1848. I found the reading to be a grind from time to time. I wondered why I was reading "outdated" science. I wondered why I was reading Poe's outdated science. Sometimes I was bored with it.

Then again...sometimes I was really gripped by the thoughts and the expressions...man, this guy can write. And I was continually amazed at his knowledge...not only just for the time. And then I felt a connection. A connection I felt for those who've grappled with the same issues in the past but with less information than we have today. I'm learning too and am part of that chain of learning...hard to explain. The ideas, some even wrong ideas, are stimulating. THe thoughts stimulate.

In short, yes, I'm glad I read it. I'm glad I bought a hard copy to add to my library. And something will pull me back to it for reference from time to time----I know that already!


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