452ºF (Jul 2009)

Neither Genius nor Fudge: Edgar Allan Poe and Eureka

  • Stott, G. St. John

Journal volume & issue
no. 1
pp. 52 – 64


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"Eureka" (1848) has been taken at face value as an expanded version of a lecture on cosmology that Poe gave earlier the same year. However, its seriousness as a work of science should be questioned. Its treatment of themes found in other works by Poe shows the author’s unconcern for consistency, and the text unlikely to have resulted from a serious engagement with scientific argument. Instead it should be approached as a hoax: an attempt to reveal the gullibility of its readers. Poe’s hoaxes relied for their effect on the trust created in readers by their recognition of generic conventions, and Eureka exploited and ridiculed public trust in cosmological lecturers such as John Bovee Dods.