Spring 1966 • Vol. XXVIII No. 2 Nonfiction |

The Imagination at Play: Edgar Allan Poe

Poe's attitude toward the imagination can be set in sharp perspective by that of Hawthorne. In his tales and romances, Hawthorne works tentatively and at times clumsily to release the imagination for the purposes of his art; he spent his career finding ways to enter what he once called "the kingdom of possibilities." Poe, on the other hand, leaps boldly into "palace[s] of imagination," such as that described by the narrator of "Berenice," and grasps at a stroke the latitude that Hawthorne and other writers of the time strive toward. In the context of a society suspicious of imaginative indulgence, Hawthorne's commitment to the imagination is cautious, even intermittent; what he called "the hot, hard practical life of America" never ceased to threaten his creative efforts. In the context of the same society, Poe champions the imagination and claims that its range is "unlimited"; he thumbs his nose at the hard, hot practical life of America and at what his society took to be serious c

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