This essay examines Poe’s conception and use of the Gothic via his engagements with the work of earlier writers from Horace Walpole through Ann Radcliffe, William Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Poe’s uses of the Gothic, and his relationship with the work of these writers, was informed by his philosophical materialism and framed by his dialogue with the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Tracing these associations reveals Poe’s transformation of the idea of “Gothic structure” from an architectural model, the ancestral pile of the eighteenth-century Gothic, to one of energetic transformation, the electric pile featured in many of Poe’s tales.
This article mentions the complicated relationship between elegy and the longing for aesthetic redemption; however, such longing is rarely distant from anger and rage, and therefore never far from the effort to make of the AIDS elegy a social genre that could offer the prospect of interaction ‘with the oblivious or indifferent’. The elegy adopts the testimonial precisely because it refuses to turn its back on the ‘urgent concern with the responsibilities of the living’. It then notes the poems by a few of the very well-known gay male poets as evidence of the way in which elegy was being adapted in this writing to the purpose of AIDS witness, somewhat in the manner of a coming out. The intertextual relation of the poems by Ingrid de Kok and Thomas Gunn signifies that here/there and now/then differences are not as self-evident as they may seem.
R. Clifton Spargo
This article describes the measure of the elegy's self-subversions through history, but finds that in its contemporary form it has reached an apex of resistance that plays out in the realm of ethics. Focusing on Elizabeth Bishop, Ann Sexton, and Jorie Graham, the article reveals that contemporary elegy is intensely self-conscious; this self-consciousness plays out not only in the terms of the self-reflexive engagement, but in its acuteness with respect to its own temporality, and to the ethical considerations that are thereby inextricably tied to it. Bishop's poetry explores the provisional negotiations of memory in an effort to establish a continuous self that, despite the best efforts, is far less stable than its everyday capability might lead to suppose. Graham's poetry has been celebrated for its modernist or postmodernist difficulties. The surest sign of anti-elegy resides in its refusal to find restitution in the function of commemoration in culture.
Edgar Allan Poe envisions detection as competition, staging contests between characters, constructing plots so as to outwit readers, and in effect competing with himself in the two sequels to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” By striving to outdo what he has already done, Poe weaves authorial competition into the fabric of detection, inspiring a diverse range of writers to bring innovations to the form. He would likely be amazed to find that the descendants of Auguste Dupin have come in an array of shapes, sizes, nationalities, genders, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, subject positions, and ethnic and racial backgrounds. Moreover, even his vivid imagination could not have conceived of detection’s impact on various print and nonprint media in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including comic books, graphic novels, animation, computer games, television, and film.
This chapter focuses on the fiction Poe began writing in the early 1830s. New to the genre, Poe wrote his first tales as ironic experiments in the voices of established authors in the marketplace, which he satirized as an elite literary club where members exchanged and critiqued one another’s tales at invitation-only banquets. The chapter presents a reconstruction of this never-published Folio Club collection and suggests topics for its future exploration: repeated motifs in the members’ tales, ways in which the club’s organization burlesques the systems of production and reviewing in Poe’s print culture, and reiterations of underlying features of the design in the author’s later work.
Maeera Y. Shreiber
This article considers the subject of survival, focusing on the continuation of Jewish rituals of mourning and memory in Jewish poetry. Poets such as Charles Reznikoff, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrienne Rich show how the kaddish is used in ways that complicate and thicken the understanding of the modern elegy. Of the three poems discussed, Reznikoff's ‘Kaddish’ is the most critical of this shift from the human to the divine; instead of directing the poem towards God. Ginsberg's ‘Kaddish’ significantly avoids the ancient Hebrew prayer altogether. In Rich's ‘Tattered Kaddish’, it is observed how the liturgical frame may be appropriated and refashioned in the service of reclaiming ritualized grieving in such a way that challenges the idea of poetic mourning as an individualized mode of expression. Rich insists that institutions, whether they be religious, political, or aesthetic, be able to accommodate pain and unmitigated loss.
This article reports that for some American Puritans, the plain-style sermon became a model for elegy, and theological didacticism became its central focus. Still, it is the funeral elegy that is most closely associated with the American Puritans who, like their British predecessors, also appropriated its emotional valence for political positioning; the legitimacy of Cromwell's rule, for example, was a common theme. The writing of elegies flourished during the English Renaissance with the rise of literacy, printing, and humanistic individualism. The wages of sin encompassed not just death, but the ordinary human response to death. The presumed salvation of the deceased had a decisive effect on elegiac portraiture. In the Puritan view, by diminishing the distance between private contemplation and public reaffirmation, elegy absorbed individual mourners into a community capable not only of producing souls worthy of heaven, but of properly marking their translation there.
John Carlos Rowe
“Tamerlane” (1827), “Al Aaraaf” (1829), and “Israfel” (1831) are familiar examples of Poe’s poetic Orientalism, in which the exoticism of the Middle East is used to develop aesthetic ideas central to Poe’s literary career. In addition to its relevance to nineteenth-century Western imperialism, Poe’s poetic Orientalism in these poems relies on ideas of Western European progress that incorporate Islamic religious values as part of the cultural imperialism to which Poe contributes throughout his career. Poe’s Gnosticism in these early poems anticipates his metaphysical and astrophysical claims in Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848).
This essay argues that Poe’s late satires attempt to dramatize the power of public opinion in Jacksonian democracy, especially insofar as that opinion asserts its authority by overriding individual thought and belief. Beyond Poe’s disdain for the stupidity and malleability of popular beliefs, in other words, what haunts the strained comedy of his increasingly bitter late satires is his interest in how such beliefs acquire a seemingly uncontestable power. In these stories, public opinion is sinister because it is collective without being intentional; it emerges, but it is traceable to no will and no plan, communal or otherwise. In satires like “Mellonta Tauta” and “Some Words with a Mummy,” Poe examines the inevitably thwarted desire to stabilize meaning by tracing opinion to an original source. In “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” Poe parodies the attempt to ground individual belief in something less ephemeral than collective opinion.
Margarida Vale de Gato
This chapter considers not only how Poe’s impact on European symbolism prompted US poets—both expatriates (Eliot, Pound) and the natively grounded (Williams)—to rehash Poe’s literary import but also how the influence of ambivalent perceptions of Poe (the visionary, the ratiocinative hoaxer, the antididactic) extended to poet(ic)s of the Americas, eventually transcending their borders with a radiance that invites thinking of “phosphorescence” as a poetical category. From Baudelaire’s seminal reception to Mallarmé’s shift into the prose poem, from Pessoa’s elaborations on rhythmical versions of the original to Jakobson’s emphasis on paranomasia in “The Raven,” Poe was a cornerstone of the development of modern(ist) poetry on a transnational scale. Translational negotiation, along with defamiliarization and varied understandings of the “legitimate province of the poem,” would inform emerging poetics of the modern lyrical genre. T. S. Eliot’s reading of Poe as the unwitting but productive initiator of a continuous detachment of poetry from meaning, leading up to the French symbolist tenet of “la poésie pure” and culminating in Valéry, had the merit of placing Poe in the context that facilitated high modernism. On the other hand, this reading disregarded the significance of Poe for early Spanish American modernism(o)s, which this essay will recuperate, along with other Latin language proposals for the relation of poetry with aesthetic and cultural inventiveness. It also addresses the effacement of the erudite and popular in language and media, and the echoes of Poe in countercultural movements such as surrealism, concrete poetry, and beat poetry.
Poe’s influence on both avant-garde and mass-cultural production has been puzzling for many. This is because “avant-garde” has been restricted to whatever opposes aesthetic commodification and the culture industry. Placing Poe’s work in the context of nineteenth century physiological aesthetics helps explain Poe’s profound influence on “experimental arts,” whether avant-garde or commercial. Focused on anomalies of attention and the separation of sense modalities, Poe’s texts model and incite experimentation in media other than his own. Using hearing and vision as a red thread, this chapter will advance this argument through reference to visual works by Odilon Redon, Harry Clarke, and Carlo Farneti.
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.
William E. Engel
Poe displays deep if selective knowledge of ancient writers, Renaissance and Enlightenment literature, and continental aesthetics. His readings of the classics ranged widely, but he was as likely to have learned about the ancient world from anthologies and encyclopedias as from primary texts. Typical of the magazine culture of the nineteenth century, many of Poe’s allusions and references that sound biblical in fact are either Shakespearean or commonplace expressions of the day. His notions of aesthetics, initially drawn from Schlegel, Byron, and Coleridge, branched out to embrace esoteric and Neoplatonic considerations that he developed in his writings with characteristic originality, including metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls), Renaissance Hermeticism (prominently on display in Usher’s library), and Arabian cosmology (especially in “Al Aaraaf” and “Israfel”). Moving beyond mere source hunting, this essay examines the principal ways—and the ends to which—Poe incorporated key aspects of the Western cultural tradition into his works.
This essay proceeds chronologically, describing and evaluating noteworthy book-length biographies of Poe, from William Fearing Gill to James Hutchisson. The quality of these biographies ranges from the problematic (especially Woodberry, Allen, and Krutch) to the preeminent (especially Quinn, Thomas and Jackson, and Silverman). Discussions of the biographies include such matters as accuracy and insight, style and pace, and research and regard. Cruxes include Poe’s drinking, Poe’s sexuality, Poe’s will, the conclusion of Poe’s Pym, and the value of Poe’s Eureka. Though we never finally really know Poe, we may, by reading and rereading the best of these biographies, approach him more closely than we have approached him before.
Poe experimented with one of the most popular genres of the nineteenth century: travel and exploration literature. Poe’s engagements with the genre highlight its dominance in the era’s print culture as well as his own negotiations of antebellum publication economies. This essay considers Poe’s experiments—particularly The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” and “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall”—alongside his many reviews and essays about travel and exploration literature. Even as Poe plagiarized extensively from published accounts for Pym and “Rodman,” these works offer a generic remapping. Emphasizing the novel effects travel can offer rather than its facts, Poe’s fictionalizations dislocate the racialized imperial vision often associated with the genre to offer, instead, Gothic travels that refuse to map terra incognita.
This article presents a discussion on American Indian elegy. It specifically deals with Gerald Vizenor's theorization of what is called ‘continuance and survivance — this latter term a compound of the notion of survival through resistance’. Native American writers regularly express a deep sense of loss in their work. Native narratives of continuance and survivance construct the past and the future very differently from Euramerican narratives of progress and dominance. The wide range of American Indian writing in the elegiac mode from the nineteenth century up to the present and the genre of Indian autobiography are described. Furthermore, several prose texts by Vizenor are addressed. Writing in the elegiac mode may be found in the work of many contemporary Native American poets.