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Poe and the Remapping of Antebellum Print Culture

J. Gerald Kennedy

Publication Year: 2012

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) has long occupied the position of literary outsider. Dismissed as unrepresentative of the main currents of antebellum culture, Poe commented incisively—in fiction and nonfiction—on nationalism, science, materialism, popular taste, and cultural ideology. Opposing the pressure to write nationalistic “American” tales or from a restricted New England perspective, he produced a body of work held in greater international esteem than that of any of his U.S. contemporaries. In Poe and the Remapping of Antebellum Print Culture, scholars explore Poe’s anti-nationalistic Americanism as they redefine the outlines of antebellum print culture and challenge ideas that situate Poe at the margins of national thought and cultural activity. The contributors offer fresh perspectives on an often-maligned author, including essays on Poe’s preoccupation with celebrity, his fascination with metropolitan crime and mystery, his impact as an observer of racial fear, his role as an eccentric cultural icon, and his fluctuating reputation in our own era. They also argue for new digital approaches that facilitate remapping of print culture. Contributors: Anna Brickhouse, Betsy Erkkila, Jennifer Rae Greeson, Leon Jackson, J. Gerald Kennedy, Maurice S. Lee, Jerome McGann, Scott Peeples, Leland S. Person, and Eliza Richards

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The editors of this volume wish to thank MaryKatherine Callaway, director of LSU Press, for her encouragement; Margaret Lovecraft for her editorial oversight; and Stan Ivester for his deft copyediting. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the press’s outside reader, Meredith McGill, for her astute suggestions for organizing and improving the volume. Charles M. “Mitch” Frye provided invaluable editorial ...

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pp. 1-10

Amid commemorations of Edgar Poe’s bicentennial year, a contingent of literary scholars met at the University of Virginia to launch a collaborative research project. While less theatrical than the restaging of Poe’s burial in Baltimore, this gathering confronted the author’s anomalous, problematic position in American literary history as well as the larger, more complex question of how to remap ...

I: Locating the Republic of Letters

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Chapter 1 Inventing the Literati: Poe’s Remapping of Antebellum Print Culture

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pp. 13-36

As Edgar Poe seems to have grasped from his debut as a magazinist, authors are made, not born, fashioned by a subtle process embedded in the systems of production and distribution that constitute print culture. Beyond the strange genius flaunted in his poetry and tales, Poe possessed an uncanny understanding of the power of magazines and newspapers to create cultural icons. Apart from book reviews, his various ...

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Chapter 2 “The Rage for Lions”: Edgar Allan Poe and the Culture of Celebrity

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pp. 37-61

In the summer of 1846, Mary Gove made a series of visits to Edgar Allan Poe in Fordham, where they walked, talked, and debated the nature of authorship and its motivations. During one of these visits, Poe announced his absolute disdain for the opinion of others. “I write,” he told Gove, “from a mental necessity—to satisfy my taste and my love of art. Fame forms no motive power with me. What ...

II: Surveying the National Scene

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Chapter 3 Perverting the American Renaissance: Poe, Democracy, Critical Theory

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pp. 65-100

The figure of Edgar Allan Poe made F. O. Matthiessen anxious and uneasy. It was as if he feared a return of the repressed that might erode the story of America’s first artistic cultural flowering that he seeks to tell in American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941). Matthiessen’s now seminal study not only named a period and defined a canon (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman); it also set the ...

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Chapter 4 “To Reproduce a City”: New York Letters and the Urban American Renaissance

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pp. 101-122

Traditional formulations of the American Renaissance locate its occurrence almost exclusively in New England, most famously on Emerson’s “bare common” or Thoreau’s Walden Pond, but nearly always either “in nature” (on the masthead of the Pequod, for instance) or a small town (Concord, Salem, Andover) where the past speaks louder than the future. Whitman, of course, is the exception in F. O. Matthiessen’s ...

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Chapter 5 Poe’s 1848: Eureka, the Southern Margin, and the Expanding U[niverse] of S[tars]

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pp. 123-140

Edgar Allan Poe’s last major work, Eureka, is many things at once. Among others, this “Essay on the Spiritual and Material Universe” is a metaphysical inquiry into the nature of human knowledge, and a quasi-scientific treatise on the developing field of cosmology. My reading in this essay, however, focuses upon Eureka as a satire in which Poe not only engages the language of abstract, theoretical inquiry, ...

III: Plotting Poe’s Influence

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Chapter 6 Cruising (Perversely) for Context: Poe and Murder, Women and Apes

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pp. 143-169

In his second review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, Poe famously prescribes the ideal strategy for the “skilful literary artist,” who constructs a tale by conceiving, “with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect” and “then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect.” As Poe elaborates this deterministic artistic paradigm, he declares that in the “whole composition there should be no word written, of which ...

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Chapter 7 Robert Greenhow, Poe, and the Nineteenth-Century History of Transnational American Studies

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pp. 170-199

Throughout the 1840s, Robert Greenhow, a quiet man of letters who loved old books and maps, was suffering periodically from a nervous disorder.1 Though his official title was “Librarian and Translator,” Greenhow was a writer and scholar working in multiple languages and historical periods. He had plenty of reasons to be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of primary and secondary materials out ...

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Chapter 8 Poe’s Lyrical Media: The Raven’s Returns

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pp. 200-224

“The Raven” is usually understood as an exercise in containment. Critics have determined that its repetitive structures hold evidence of psychological trauma: over the loss of beloved women, the death of writing, slavery (“le noir!”), or modernity’s impingements, for example.1 In these readings, the poem’s highly elaborated, artificial mechanism evinces a protective response to shock rooted in compulsive repetition: the trauma ...

IV: Repositioning Poe in Literary America

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Chapter 9 Poe by the Numbers: Odd Man Out?

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pp. 227-244

Poe has been traditionally seen as an anomaly in nineteenth-century American literary history, though it is not clear how one might precisely define his status outside the critical center. In the first half of the twentieth century, important figures marginalized Poe. D. H. Lawrence damned him with pity; T. S. Eliot could not quite respect him; Van Wyck Brooks and Vernon Parrington largely excluded ...

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Chapter 10 Poe, Decentered Culture, and Critical Method

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pp. 245-259

Some of the most important scholarship in antebellum American literature and culture has emerged in the past fifteen years, much of it examining Poe and his circle of friends and enemies. The work is especially significant because it implicitly— and sometimes explicitly—calls for a distinctively new kind of critical and scholarly methodology. Poe and his American scene provide an illuminating ...


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pp. 261-262


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pp. 263-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780807150276
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150269

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012