International Journal of
English and Literature

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. English Lit.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2626
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJEL
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 270

Full Length Research Paper

“To those who feel rather than to those who think:” Sound and emotion in Poe’s poetry

Cynthia Whissell
Psychology Department, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 2C6 Canada
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 03 June 2011
  •  Published: 31 July 2011



In his critical writings, Edgar Allan Poe stressed the importance of the impressionistic use of sound and emotion in poetry. This research quantifies Poe’s use of emotionally communicative sounds and demonstrates that he wrote in accordance with his expressed principles praising the use of pleasant and sad emotions in poetry and decrying the use of active ones. Poe’s poems were submitted to a phonoemotional analysis and proportions for the usage of sounds in eight emotional categories were obtained. Frequently anthologized English poems, some of Poe’s non-poetic writings, and poems of two other 19th century American poets were compared to Poe’s poetry. As predicted, Poe used several classes of emotionally-toned sounds at significantly higher than normal rates (Pleasant, Sad, Soft, Passive, and Cheerful ones), and several at significantly lower than normal rates (Unpleasant, Active, and Nasty ones). His poetry was significantly more extreme in the employment of his preferred emotional sounds than his other writings, and than other poetry, especially with respect to the use of Pleasant, Sad, and Soft sounds.


Key words: Poe, poetry, sound, emotion.