College of Liberal Arts

Department of English


Nikita Nankov

"'The Infinite World of the Soul, . . . the Horizons of Unseen
Supernatural Skies': Liudmil Stoianov and Edgar Allan Poe"

Liudmil Stoianov (1888-1973) is a major Bulgarian writer. In his youth, he was a leading modernist and Symbolist, but in the 1930s he gradually turned leftist, and after 1944 when the communists took power in Bulgaria, he repented of his modernist youth and became a champion of socialist realism. This metamorphosis explains why much of his modernist past has not been researched, and why his interest in Edgar Allan Poe, which is an important part of his modernist activities, has remained unnoticed so far.

This paper presents Stoianov's two articles on Poe (1919 and 1921), which, together with Geo Milev's 1919 article, are the most important Symbolist critical interpretations of this American writer in Bulgaria. (Stoianov's interest in Poe is also substantiated by his translation of some of Poe's tales in three volumes published in 1919.) Stoianov's ideas of Poe are considered in two complementary contexts: responses, first, to Poe's life and work in America, France, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries and second, in certain major lines of Bulgarian modernism and Symbolism. Stoianov's articles rework the American and European ideas of Poe according to the needs of Bulgarian Symbolism--but this does not necessarily mean that Bulgarian Symbolism in general and Stoianov's writings in particular imitate European modernism, which is the traditional view of this period of Bulgarian literature. The present essay calls for a new perspective in assessing Stoianov's ideas of Poe and, in a broader sense, the so-called imitativeness of Bulgarian modernism with respect to Europe, namely, one that abolishes the oppositions "center--periphery" and "model--imitation." In Stoianov's two articles, five main points emerge: (i) the American writer's life is portrayed as a catalog of terrible suffering in the name of art; (ii) Poe is an enormous influence on contemporary art; (iii) the reason for this influence is not the rational but the intuitive and transcendental in his work; (iv) Poe is the founding father of contemporary culture (that is, modernism and Symbolism), the roots of which go back to antiquity; and (v) as a poet, Poe is concerned above all with the tragic impossibility of earthly love, the notion that true love is a purely cosmic idea.











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The Poe Studies site is normally maintained by Tanya Gonzales. Please feel free to e-mail comments, queries, and suggestions.

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