A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe

A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe

A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe

A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe

Synopsis

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), son of itinerant actors, holds a secure place in the firmament of history as America's first master of suspense. Displaying scant interest in native scenes or materials, Edgar Allan Poe seems the most un-American of American writers during the era of literary nationalism; yet he was at the same time a pragmatic magazinist, fully engaged in popular culture and intensely concerned with the "republic of letters" in the United States. This Historical Guide contains an introduction that considers the tensions between Poe's "otherworldly" settings and his historically marked representations of violence, as well as a capsule biography situating Poe in his historical context. The subsequent essays in this book cover such topics as Poe and the American Publishing Industry, Poe's Sensationalism, his relationships to gender constructions, and Poe and American Privacy. The volume also includes a bibliographic essay, a chronology of Poe's life, a bibliography, illustrations, and an index.

Excerpt

Despite persisting disagreement about Edgar Allan Poe's literary achievement, no American writer of the antebellum period enjoys greater current popularity and recognizability. One hundred fifty years after the author's death, cartoon characters Garfield and Bart Simpson entertain young television viewers by reciting “The Raven, ” and the new National Football League team in Baltimore owes its team nickname and logo to that famous poem. The compact disc “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” by the Alan Parsons Project has dazzled rock fans with its pulsating interpretations of Poe texts; such Roger Corman films as The Fall of the House of Usher and The Masque of the Red Death (both featuring Vincent Price) have become cult classics; and Generation-X readers, especially those attracted to the “Goth” counterculture, revel in Poe's dark fantasies. Apart from Frederick Douglass, he is the only American writer of his era yet featured on the popular Arts and Entertainment “Biography” series. Why does his work from the 1830s and 1840s seem so fresh and compelling to readers in the new millennium? Why has his influence on popular culture remained pervasive and enduring? Why does Poe haunt us still?

Like the enigma of “The Purloined Letter, ” the answers to these questions are both obvious and subtle. In the most immedi-

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