Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.


During the early to mid-1800s, a common renewal was being started in America, now known as American Romanticism. During this time period, many writers changed the norm of writing from the previous Rationalist works, including ideals of Christianity and its faith. This new stream of Romanticism writing included notable poets, such as Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe. However, these writers contributed to different sections of Romanticism, such as Poe's Dark Romanticism, a more psychological and mysterious form of American Romanticism. In his thriller, "Ligeia," Poe explains a story of a man who has lost his first love, followed tragically by a second. But, magically, the body of the second dead woman is resurrected as the living body of his first true love, Ligeia (Poe, "Ligeia"). As Poe continued writing, his stories and poems grew similarities as he developed his unique style circled around some events in his life, and his enjoyment in the imagination helped fuel his creativity to produce some of the best works of literature in American history.

According to John Langley, Rationalism includes the "belief that (the) universe is orderly and good," (Langley) and Romanticism "attacked science" (Langley). To start, "Ligeia" is clearly not a form of Rationalism because this universe is not so orderly and good if people are rising from the dead through the bodies of different people. It is of demonic descent to bring life out of death because that goes against the laws of science and defeats the rules of the Devil's ultimatum. Also, in the same way, this same scene fits in the Romanticism aspect of Langley's assertion. Furthermore, again in the words of John Langley, "(American Romanticism) finds beauty and truth in the supernatural realm" (Langley). Obviously, this scene also fits this description of the supernatural realm because this comeback into life is impossible, except for Poe's surreal case of Ligeia.

Next, "Ligeia" is a story of romantic proportion, in that the narrator displays an immense showing of affection for the woman because of the ways in which he describes her, such as "her singular yet placid cast of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low musical language" (Poe, "Ligeia"). Later, he goes on to provide a fuller description of his love: "I would in vain attempt to portray the majesty, the quiet ease, of her demeanor, or the incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall" (Poe, "Ligeia"). "Ligeia" is also a story of the love he has for his first true love, no matter what circumstances keep them apart, even death. Romanticism, simply judged by the name, was also influenced by love for people and nature. In this case, the love for one person makes a romantic story into one of Romanticism.

Naturally, it is a human tendency to talk about the things one enjoys and does on a daily basis, so Poe, in turn, wrote about some of the things in his life with, of course, a few slight modifications. For example, in 1837 at the time of the the writing of this story, Poe was living in Philadelphia with his lovely new bride, Virginia ("A Short Biography"). As they were settling down, Poe had recurrent thoughts of what might happen if Virginia were to leave him, and he finally decided that she would never do such a thing, and that was the basis for his "Ligeia," where Ligeia is based on Virginia, and the rest is simply imagined. Poe thought of the love of his life and decided that her love would remain endless, disregarding any circumstances.

Unfortunately, the poem "To the River" was also written by Edgar Allan Poe, but it is in a much more solidly defined loving sub-genre of Romanticism. "To the River" is a description of a beautiful, flowing river; "Thou art an emblem of the glow / Of beauty -- the unhidden heart -- / The playful maziness of art / In Old Alberto's daughter" (Poe, "To the River"). Also, in "Ligeia," Poe describes another woman as equally beautiful and unrelenting in the ability to toy with his emotions. Poe simply cannot help falling for Ligeia, as he sees her as the most perfect woman, and he has the same struggle in "To the River" with keeping his love under control. But, as stated, the two stories are nowhere near the same because one is about sophisticated beauty, and the other is about unfinished love. So, comparisons between the stories are difficult to make because they are members of different classes of American Romanticism.

However, "Ligeia" is very similar to numerous other works by Edgar Allan Poe, such as "Spirits of the Dead" and "Some Words with a Mummy." Mainly connected by title, all three have passages to the dead, like the one in "Ligeia." If Mr. Poe enjoyed writing these tales of the dead is up for grabs, but he certainly did write a lot of them. It must be understood that the stories did not portray Poe's outlook on the world, but he did so much love the stories of creativity and absolute excitement. And, for this particular man, excitement came in the form of writing, precisely Dark Romanticism writing.

Also, it is noticable that many of Poe's short stories follow the same basic plot line of seemingly useless information at the beginning, leading into an enthralling tale of wonder and suspense. In "Ligeia," Poe accomplishes this by describing the woman, his love for her, and her feelings in the first six or seven paragraphs (Poe, "Ligeia"), but, by doing this, he creates enough room to make an amazing finish, usually one unforseen by the reader, including some sort of plot twist. Sadly, however, this repetitive form of writing made many of those works seem extremely similar and somewhat boring.

To close, Edgar Allan Poe has written some of the most highly accredited pieces of literature in the last two centuries with a similar style present throughout most of his works. Partially due to the time period, Poe was influenced heavily by the growing thought in Romanticism. His stories branched off of the mainstrem Romanticism into its own cosmic world of Dark Romanticism, involving a strong influence from death and the psychological aspect of literature, in which the reader must really think. In this "Ligeia," Poe uses the love of the woman to set up an infinite lust for more, and in the end, he gives satisfaction to such a sad life when Ligeia returns from the dead (Poe, "Ligeia"). This story broke the previous mold of Rationalism, and it is part of Romanticism because of the impossibility in the story and that it plays with the imagination on the surreal aspect. In the end, Poe has created, almost single-handedly, a faction of literature which he dominates by keeping his readers enticed with excitement, illusion, and mystery.


Works Cited

Langley, John. “Romanticism 1800-1860.” Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom. 24 Oct. 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. http://sites.google.com/site/mrlangleysroom/treasure-chest/presentations. Microsoft Powerpoint File.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "Ligeia." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/read/ligeia.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "To the River." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/read/totheriver.

"A Short Biography of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)." PoeStories.com: an Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. PoeStories.com. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://poestories.com/biography.php.