Genre, science, and ‘Hans Pfaall'
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Citation (published version)Lee, Maurice S. “Genre, Science, and ‘Hans Pfaall.’” The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy and Scott Peeples, Oxford University Press, 5 Apr. 2018, pp. 337–350. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190641870.013.20
This essay moves beyond questions of source study and reception to show how “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” mixes genres of satire and realism. In doing so, Poe not only participates in the early development of science fiction but also explores emerging relationships between scientific and literary discourses during the nineteenth-century print revolution, which made it difficult to distinguish between fictions and facts. “Hans Pfaall” selfconsciously dramatizes through stylistic turbulence how knowledge is generically produced within unruly media ecologies and is thus epistemologically unstable. In this sense, the story— not in spite but precisely because of its generic and aesthetic inconsistencies—can be regarded less as an unsuccessful hoax and more as a narrative about the dynamics of writing and reading fiction under conditions of doubt.