Poe

Poe

Poe

Poe

Synopsis

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American original-a luminous literary theorist, an erratic genius, and an analyst par excellence of human obsession and compulsion. The scope of his literary achievements and the dramatic character of Poe's life have drawn readers and critics to him in droves.

And yet, upon his death, one obituary penned by a literary enemy in the New York Daily Tribune cascaded into a lasting stain on Poe's character, leaving a historic misunderstanding. Many remember Poe as a difficult, self-pitying, troubled drunkard often incapable of caring for himself.

Poe reclaims the Baltimore and Virginia writer's reputation and power, retracing Poe's life and career. Biographer and critic James M. Hutchisson captures the boisterous worlds of literary New York and Philadelphia in the 1800s to understand why Poe wrote the way he did and why his achievement was so important to American literature. The biography presents a critical overview of Poe's major works and his main themes, techniques, and imaginative preoccupations.

This portrait of the writer emphasizes Poe's southern identity; his existence as a workaday journalist in the burgeoning magazine era; his authority as a literary critic and cultural arbiter; his courtly demeanor and sense of social propriety; his advocacy of women writers; his adaptation of art forms as diverse as the so-called "gutter press" and the haunting rhythms of African American spirituals; his borrowing of imagery from such popular social movements as temperance and freemasonry; and his far-reaching, posthumous influence.

James M. Hutchisson, Charleston, South Carolina, is a professor of American literature and southern studies at The Citadel.

Excerpt

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American original—a luminous literary theorist, an erratic genius, and an analyst of the human psyche par excellence. The scope and diversity of these achievements, as well as the compellingly dramatic character of Poe’s life, have drawn readers and critics to him in droves, bringing him a vast popularity that he dreamed of but could never have even faintly imagined. Several score of books have been produced about him, including biographies, critical monographs, specialized studies, and even novels and plays.

This book seeks to capture the most central of those examinations of his life and work, offer its own insights, and present them in a concise, accessible volume. It is not intended for Poe specialists but rather for general readers—those who wish to see the broad outlines of Poe’s life, learn something of his career, dip into the boisterous worlds of literary New York and Philadelphia in the 1800s, and understand why Poe wrote the way he did and why that was so important to American literature. It presents a critical overview of Poe’s major works and his main themes, techniques, and imaginative preoccupations.

Readers already familiar with the details of Poe’s life will see some aspects of his biography given more illumination here than in previous works. This portrait of the writer emphasizes Poe’s southern identity; his existence as a workaday journalist in the burgeoning magazine era and his presence as a literary critic and cultural arbiter; his courtly demeanor and his sense of social propriety; his patronage of women writers; his adaptation and refurbishment of art forms as diverse as the so-called “gutter press” and the haunting rhythms of African American spirituals; his borrowing of imagery from popular social movements like temperance and Freemasonry; and his powerful posthumous influence on the sister arts . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.