"The Raven"I can't call them to mind, but I have come across other examples where Continental cultural icons have a dramatically different assessment of something than their counterparts in the Anglosphere. Well, actually, I can think of one, the theatrical relevance and assessment of Jerry Lewis.
In the essay, Poe traces the logical progression of his creation of "The Raven" as an attempt to compose "a poem that should suit at once the popular and the critical taste." He claims that he considered every aspect of the poem. For example, he purposely set the poem on a tempestuous evening, causing the raven to seek shelter. He purposefully chose a pallid bust to contrast with the dark plume of the bird. The bust was of Pallas in order to evoke the notion of scholar, to match with the presumed student narrator poring over his "volume[s] of forgotten lore." No aspect of the poem was an accident, he claims, but is based on total control by the author.
Even the term "Nevermore," he says, is based on logic following the "unity of effect." The sounds in the vowels in particular, he writes, have more meaning than the definition of the word itself. He had previously used words like "Lenore" for the same effect.
The raven itself, Poe says, is meant to symbolize Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. This may imply an autobiographical significance to the poem, alluding to the many people in Poe's life who had died.
It is uncertain if Poe really followed the method he describes in "The Philosophy of Composition." T. S. Eliot said: "It is difficult for us to read that essay without reflecting that if Poe plotted out his poem with such calculation, he might have taken a little more pains over it: the result hardly does credit to the method." Biographer Joseph Wood Krutch described the essay as, "a rather highly ingenious exercise in the art of rationalization than literary criticism."
It is apparent, however, that many French literary figures and composers believed that Poe composed "The Raven" in the manner depicted in "The Philosophy of Composition." Maurice Ravel, in a July 1931 interview, stated that "the finest treatise on composition, in my opinion, and the one which in any case had the greatest influence upon me was [Poe's] "Philosophy of Composition... I am convinced that Poe indeed wrote his poem "The Raven" in the way that he indicated." Charles Baudelaire believed that the "unity of impression, the totality of effect" described by Poe endowed a composition with "a very special superiority."
I can speculate, but I have no good explanation for these instances of diametrical assessment between the two schools of thought.