The Right Brain in Poe's Creative Process

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dr. Mark Canada, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
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Abstract: I would give the world," Edgar Allan Poe wrote at the beginning of his career, "to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination" (Letters 32). The words, penned to editor John Neal in 1829, mark the beginning of Poe's lifelong fascination with the creative process. Over the next twenty years, even as he embodied one after another of his ideas in poems and tales, Poe returned again and again to the subject of creativity. Ranging from brief passages in letters to an elaborate recreation of his method in "The Philosophy of Composition," these treatments form a remarkably coherent picture of Poe's own creative process. The process began, as he revealed in "Marginalia" and elsewhere, with the cultivation of abstract imagery through various forms of reverie. Finding this material resistant to verbal language, he then incarnated it using a different sort of language, one made up of brilliant and surreal imagery, music, and emotional stimulation. This description of creativity, interesting for the general picture it provides of Poe's artistic process, is all the more fascinating in light of current models of the human brain. In these models, the right hemisphere, which is active during reverie, is a source of visual, musical, and emotional imagery and indeed plays an important role in creativity. Thus considered, then, Poe's descriptions of his creative process suggest that he both collected and incarnated his literary material by tapping the resources of his right brain.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1998
Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849, Creativity, Creative Process, Right Brain

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