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The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe

The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 211
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  • Book Info
    The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe
    Book Description:

    Controversies abound in studies of Edgar Allan Poe. From the time of Poe's death well into the twentieth century, partisans debated the issue of his character: was he an alcoholic? Drug addict? Pathological liar? Necrophile? In the 1920s and 30s, psychoanalytic critics sought to divorce the study of Poe from Victorian moral concerns but in the process made scandalous claims by linking Poe's dream-like stories to his personality. The status of Poe's literary productions was similarly disputed; dismissed in the New Critical textbooks of Brooks and Warren and left out of F. O. Mathiessen's canon-forming American Renaissance, Poe was, during the same period, championed by poets such as William Carlos Williams and Allen Tate. Engaging the issues raised by feminism and New Historicism, recent scholars have debated the meaning and significance of Poe's representations of race, class, and gender, often returning to the character issue: how racist and misogynist was he, and how important are those questions to understanding his work? Finally, how have the seemingly countless plays, films, novels, comic books, and pop music experiments based on his image and works intertwined with academic study of Poe? The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe examines these and other controversies, shedding light on broader issues of canon formation, the role of biography in literary study, and the importance of integrating various, even conflicting interpretations into one's own reading of a literary work. This book will be of great interest to Poe scholars, both those who have been a part of the literary battles described above and newcomers to the field who can use the book as a guide to the field of Poe studies. It also provides a case study in literary criticism from the late nineteenth to the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-621-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    S. P.
  4. 1: The Man That Was Used Up: Poe’s Place in American Literature, 1849–1909
    (pp. 1-28)

    These infamous words, written by the Rev. Rufus Wilmot Griswold and published in the New York Tribune on October 9, 1849, two days after Poe’s death, mark the beginning of Poe’s afterlife. The Baltimore Sun had reported Poe’s death a day earlier, and had also cast doubt on how fondly Poe would be remembered, declaring that this news “will cause poignant regret among all who admire genius, and have sympathy for the frailties too often attending it” (A. H. Quinn 644). Similarly, the New York Journal of Commerce on October 9 hoped that recollection of everything about him other than...

  5. 2: A Dream Within a Dream: Poe and Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 29-62)

    In 1909, the year Poe was celebrated as a great American and a true Southerner at centennial celebrations in Charlottesville and Baltimore, Sigmund Freud visited the United States; as he arrived in New York, Freud is reported to have remarked to Carl Jung, “They don’t realize we’re bringing them the plague” (Gallop 58). Indeed, in 1909 few Americans were aware of the revolutionary theories that would “plague” their faith in human rationality and self-control, although over the course of the decade following Freud’s visit his theories would make their way not only into scholarly journals but also, in somewhat distorted...

  6. 3: Out of Space, Out of Time: From Early Formalism to Deconstruction
    (pp. 63-92)

    By the 1920s, literary scholars were trying to move away from the “character issue” that had been central to commentary on Poe up to that time. As we have seen, psychoanalytic critics of this period would announce that they had come not to judge Poe’s character but to explain it, and yet they fueled readers’ lurid interest in Poe’s substance abuse and sex life (or lack thereof). Other academic critics, particularly those associated with the New Criticism, sought to shelve biographical and historical concerns and focus on The Text. But as William Elton pointed out in 1948, “The Revolution of...

  7. 4: The Man of the Crowd: The Socio-Historical Poe
    (pp. 93-124)

    In the last chapter, I surveyed what might be called “traditional” readings of Poe that, with a few exceptions, pay little attention to the material contexts for his writings, focusing instead on form, irony, “timeless” themes and philosophical issues. While the great disruption within this tradition came from deconstruction, the real challenge to traditional Poe studies, and to traditional literary studies generally, since the 1980s has come from critics who focus attention on representations of race, gender, and class, usually by positioning the literary text in question to other texts from the same period. Chronologically, these more sociological approaches overlap...

  8. 5: Lionizing: Poe as Cultural Signifier
    (pp. 125-154)

    Not long after my book Edgar Allan Poe Revisited was published, the manager of a Montblanc boutique contacted me about giving a talk to tie in with their new Meisterstück Edgar Allan Poe writing instrument. Eager to promote my book and secretly hoping for a deep discount, I gave her a copy to use as part of a window display and spent a half hour telling her about Poe’s interest in autography, his own meticulous penmanship, his dreams of anastatic printing allowing writers to self-publish without typesetting, the implications of Poe’s titling his prospective magazine first the Penn, then the...

  9. Afterword: Loss of Breath: Writing Poe’s Last Days
    (pp. 155-164)

    Having begun this study with a newspaper notice of Poe’s death, I would like to return to the events leading up to that moment, the week before the beginning of Poe’s afterlife. On September 27, 1849, Poe boarded a steamer in Richmond bound for Baltimore, the first leg of his journey home to New York. On October 3 in Baltimore, Joseph Walker wrote to Joseph E. Snodgrass that Poe was at Ryan’s 4th Ward polls, “rather worse for the wear . . . in great distress,” and “in need of immediate assistance.” Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital, where...

  10. A Selected List of Works by Poe
    (pp. 165-166)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 167-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-199)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 200-200)