Life and death: Poe and Kierkegaard

The dreadful allure of Edgar Allan

Both Poe and Kierkegaard were preoccupied with death, denial and fear - worries never more prescient than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike the philosopher, the poet projected his obsessions into a world of stories filled with agnosticism and uncertainty. 

In 1832, five months before an Asiatic cholera pandemic reached the United States, Edgar Allan Poe started publishing magazine tales. That summer, the disease killed 3,700 people in Baltimore, where Poe was living, and in two early tales, “Shadow” and “King Pest,” he projected that crisis onto remote, Old World settings. Not until 1842, however, did he fully capture its horror in “The Masque of the Red Death.” Set in Europe, the tale depicts an arrogant ruler’s response to contagion. After his realm has been “half depopulated,” Prince Prospero belatedly invites a thousand “hale and light-hearted friends” to a Gothic abbey and then bolts shut the gates. Five or six months into the quarantine

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation

ida sanka 2 September 2021

Very helpful and good value as well. Will definitely use them again tattoo removal cost

killer smile 2 September 2021

great site thanks for sharing this! bookkeeping san diego

Justin McFarland 24 June 2021

Edgar Allan Poe was one of the brightest representatives of the Gothic Tradition of his era. The apprehension and tension that appeared in his works was remarkable and memorable. Reading reviews of his stories on and doing a linguistic analysis of some pieces, I explained a lot to myself about the origins of fear and awe in front of the unknown.