Explores the science and creative process behind Poe’s cosmological treatise.
Silver Winner, 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in the Philosophy category
In 1848, almost a year and a half before Edgar Allan Poe died at the age of forty, his book Eureka was published. In it, he weaved together his scientific speculations about the universe with his own literary theory, theology, and philosophy of science. Although Poe himself considered it to be his magnum opus, Eureka has mostly been overlooked or underappreciated, sometimes even to the point of being thought an elaborate hoax. Remarkably, however, in Eureka Poe anticipated at least nine major theories and developments in twentieth-century science, including the Big Bang theory, multiverse theory, and the solution to Olbers' paradox. In this book—the first devoted specifically to Poe's science side—David N. Stamos, a philosopher of science, combines scientific background with analysis of Poe's life and work to highlight the creative and scientific achievements of this text. He examines Poe's literary theory, theology, and intellectual development, and then compares Poe's understanding of science with that of scientists and philosophers from his own time to the present. Next, Stamos pieces together and clarifies Poe's theory of scientific imagination, which he then attempts to update and defend by providing numerous case studies of eureka moments in modern science and by seeking insights from comparative biography and psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolution.
David N. Stamos teaches philosophy at York University in Toronto. He is the author of several books, including Darwin and the Nature of Species, also published by SUNY Press.
"A truly delightful read, Stamos's volume illustrates how Poe weaved literary and scientific theories together and incorporated his notions of cosmology and cosmogony into his poems and fiction. This book deserves a place on the bookshelves of students and scholars. " — American Literary Scholarship
"This book will become an indispensable resource for anyone with an academic interest in Eureka, but contains many unexpected pleasures for any reader of Poe. " — Modern Language Review
"It is rich, entertaining, informative, comprehensive, intelligent, and provocative. Poe fans, literary critics, and even scientists will enjoy this immersion in the unplumbed imaginative depths of Poe's Eureka … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE
"…revelatory … Stamos uses Poe's Eureka as a springboard to explore a subject with a far wider relevance, making it much more than a niche work for Poe aficionados … Stamos displays an enormous erudition and mastery of a range of academic and scientific disciplines, and writes with eloquence … an exhilarating read. " — Magonia Review of Books
"Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, and Scientific Imagination is the most comprehensive treatment of Eureka that has yet been published. It is staggeringly thorough in its analysis of Poe's book, but it also shows how Poe's theories of cosmogony and cosmology ramify into his fiction and poetry, especially the tales of ratiocination. Stamos takes Eureka seriously, and he does so with the empirical undergirding of vast amounts of scientific scholarship and literary criticism. " — James M. Hutchisson, author of Poe