This paper aims to interpret Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “A Descent into the Maelström” in terms of the virtues of the 18th century sublime aesthetic theoretically informed by the works of two prominent philosophers, namely Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant. “A Descent into the Maelström” is a landscape story about a fisherman’s escape from a deadly whirlpool called Moskoe-ström off the Norwegian coast in the North Sea. The aesthetics of sublime refers to a soul elevating experience of a piece of nature that is massive or mighty enough to cause human imagination to fail. Hence, it is possible to interpret this story in terms of the notion of sublime. The paper shall claim that Poe’s short story exemplifies both a Kantian and Burkean understandings of the concept in a fashion that is peculiar to Poe’s literary style. In the tale, the fisherman’s and the narrator’s experiences correspond to two kinds of sublime. Thus, in Poe’s peculiar writing, Burkean sublime shall be traced back in the fisherman’s experience of the whirlpool, whereas Kantian sublime in that of narrator’s. Following these two philosophers and their descriptions of the sublime, the paper shall trace this notion in Poe’s tale.
Key Words: Sublime, Burke, Kant, Poe, “A Descent into the Maelström”.