Poe and Optics



      M.C. Escher's Hand with Reflecting Sphere illustrates the manipulation of perception.  Escher quoted, “The flat shapes irritate me" and so he used his art to create a more interesting perception of reality (M. C. Escher The Official Website). The spherical mirror shows the curved representation of reality and it gives the artwork the illusion of depth and distance even on a flat medium. In addition, the artist's use of a contrast of black and white gives the artwork a gloomy mood, which also parallels to the contrast between reality (around the sphere) and illusion (inside the sphere). Even in the sphere, his image is unaltered and only the room around him is contorted, which reiterates his objective in creating the piece - using his artwork to create an illusion of an alternate way to vision his world. Furthermore, his choice of placing the sphere in an empty background parallels the contrast of his take on a dull reality versus a more interesting perception of reality. Escher's style of artwork closely resembles Poe's usage of literature to alter a reader's perception of the world.

      Poe manipulates his readers' perceptions by leaving out certain details in his writings; by doing this, he puts emphasis on what he believes is important in delivering his work's objective. In "The Oval Portrait," he leaves out details of the characters and only focuses on the apartment they are residing in; he uses optics here by describing the setting on using what the characters see in the apartment. John Tresch states in "Extrangement of Vision. Edgar Allan Poe's Optics" that Poe uses this characters' observations (sight - optics) to deliver his objects and manipulate the readers' perception. Poe describes the setting using the juxtaposition of the “rich, yet tattered and antique” paintings to the “very spirited modern paintings” to show the time that passed in the apartment. Furthermore, he uses optics by utilizing the light the narrator has to change the view of the narrator, "The position of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so as to throw its rays more fully upon the book." Here, he uses the theme of light to transition the readers' attention to the book because the narrator begins to read about the painting.

      The substitution of M. C. Escher with Edgar Allan Poe in the left artwork by a modern internet artist demonstrates the similarities between Escher and Poe in a clever way. It illustrates an undisturbed image of Poe surrounded by an altered illusion of a room; also there is a realistic image of a raven perched on a chair next to him. This portrays Poe's manipulation of reality through his writings by illustrating that people remain unchanged but the perception of our surroundings can be dramatically altered through art.