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Poe and the Visual Arts

By Barbara Cantalupo

Publication Year: 2014

Although Edgar Allan Poe is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, there is an unrecognized and even forgotten side of the writer. He was a self-declared lover of beauty, who “From childhood's hour...[had] not seen / As others saw.” Poe and the Visual Arts is the first comprehensive study of how the author’s work relates to the visual culture of his time, reprising Poe’s “deep worship of all beauty,” which resounds in his earliest writing and never entirely fades, despite the demands of his commercial writing career. Barbara Cantalupo examines the ways in which Poe integrated the visual art he knew into sketches, tales, and literary criticism, paying close attention to the sculptures and paintings he saw in books, magazines, and museums while living in Philadelphia and New York from 1838 until his death in 1849. She argues that Poe’s sensitivity to the visual media gives his writing a distinctive “graphicality” (Poe’s coinage). While Poe is most often associated with the macabre, Cantalupo shows how it was his enduring love of beauty and knowledge of the visual arts that enabled him to note and use what he saw as a writer.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

My most heartfelt thanks go to two men: my mentor and esteemed Poe scholar, the late Burton R. Pollin, and my husband, Charles Cantalupo, poet, scholar, and much-admired professor. Each, in his own way, helped make this book better: Burton’s extensive knowledge of Poe’s work and Charles’s expert advice on clear and engaging writing have both been invaluable guides. A year before his...

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Note on the Text

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pp. xiii-xiv

The majority of quotations from Poe’s works are taken from Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s two-volume collection Tales and Sketches and his edition of Complete Poems. Most of Poe’s texts were published multiple times and underwent revisions from printing to printing. The versions printed in Mabbott’s Tales and Sketches are frequently (though not always) drawn from...

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pp. 1-18

Although Edgar Allan Poe’s name is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, Poe and the Visual Arts stakes a claim for the less familiar Poe—the one who often goes unrecognized or forgotten—the Poe whose early love of beauty was a strong and enduring draw, who “from childhood’s hour . . . [had] not seen / As others saw—.”1 The evidence in this book demonstrates that Poe’s...

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1. Poe’s Exposure to Art Exhibited in Philadelphia and Manhattan, 1838–1845

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pp. 19-48

This chapter presents a comprehensive listing of the paintings by important American and European artists shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts while Poe lived in Philadelphia between 1838 and 1844, as well as lists of paintings by significant American artists hung in the 1844 and 1845 annual exhibitions at the National Academy of Design while Poe lived in Manhattan. A...

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2. Artists and Artwork in Poe’s Short Stories and Sketches

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pp. 49-86

This chapter provides a chronological overview of Poe’s references to visual artists and paintings in the stories and sketches he wrote or revised while living in Philadelphia and New York from 1838 until his death in 1849. In some of Poe’s works, references to specific painters enhance thematic concerns or help produce a preconceived effect. In others, such as “Landor’s Cottage” and “A Tale of...

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3. Poe’s Homely Interiors

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pp. 87-102

In a letter to George Eveleth dated October 1, 1878, Helen Whitman reveals that Poe told her he was intent on “writing a pendant to ‘The Domain of Arnheim’ in which the most charming effects should be attained by artistic combinations of familiar and unvalued materials” (Tales, 2:1326). This chapter explores these ordinary and undervalued objects in the stories, sketches, and essays that...

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4. Poe’s Visual Tricks

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pp. 103-122

Not only was Poe attracted to the art he saw, but he was also intrigued by the very act of seeing. The act of seeing plays a pivotal role in many of his tales, including “The Sphinx,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Spectacles,” but especially in “Ligeia” and in his only published novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Poe was keenly aware of the public’s fascination with extraordinary visual...

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5. Poe’s Art Criticism

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pp. 123-162

Early in his career, Poe’s art criticism was mainly found in his reviews of books and magazines. In his May 1836 review of Frances Trollope’s Paris and the Parisians in 1835, for example, Poe takes time to describe each of its eleven engravings of drawings by Auguste Hervieu. Curiously, however, Poe’s descriptions of these drawings veer away—sometimes dramatically—from the actual image on the...

Appendix: Poe’s References to Artists, Paintings, Drawings, and Sculptures

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pp. 163-166


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pp. 167-174


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pp. 175-186


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pp. 187-197

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271064284
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271063096
Print-ISBN-10: 0271063092

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 28 color illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881398594
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Poe and the Visual Arts

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Subject Headings

  • Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Knowledge -- Art.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Aesthetics.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 -- Technique.
  • Art and literature -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Art in literature.
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