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date: 14 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

Edgar Allan Poe’s literary reputation was founded upon his sarcastic and negative reviews of current books. While Poe’s reviews have been studied for insights into his literary theory and his relation to the culture of periodical publishing, they have rarely been considered as literary works themselves. This essay analyzes the structure and tone of Poe’s earliest “tomahawk”-style reviews in The Southern Literary Messenger and finds that they innovate a new tone of sarcasm, which Poe referred to as “quizzing,” through the adaptation of a primarily textual form of irony. By making fun of prefaces, plots, and grammar, Poe employs a new form of humor that capitalizes on the emergence of print reading as mass culture. Such humor severs letter from spirit not only for the sake of criticism but also to open the practice and pleasure of critical judgment to a popular audience.

Keywords: criticism, book reviews, humor, tomahawk, quiz, humor, periodicals, mass culture, Southern Literary Messenger

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