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Love and Theft in the Carolina Lowcountry
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Scott Peeples  

Scott Peeples is Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of American Studies at the College of Charleston. He is the author of Edgar Allan Poe Revisited (1998) and The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe (2003).


I would like to thank Conseula Francis, J. Gerald Kennedy and Simon Lewis for their help with various drafts of this essay.

1. See, for instance, Rogin, Cockrell, Lhamon, and the collection edited by Bean, Hatch and McNamara. Broader studies of whiteness, defined largely through opposition to racial others, include Morrison, Babb, and the collection edited by Hill.

2. According to Lott, Dylan's publicist told another writer who was exploring this relationship that Dylan "does not deny a connection" between the title of his album and Lott's book (McNair and Whitehead).

3. When I visited the center in February 2003, the number of books on slavery and African American life before the Civil War had increased significantly from what it had been a few years earlier. Wickman's Osceola's Legacy was available in paperback, and there were also three Poe-related books, including a Dover Thrift Edition of The Gold-Bug and Other Stories. Moreover, the Visitor's Center renovated their exhibition space in 2002, devoting more attention to the experience of slavery and to Osceola and the other Seminole War captives.

4. Poe, Letters (I:286-87). See Whalen (194-224), and Rosenheim (60-62).

5. A map published by E. Lee Spence in 1981 as a guide to the geography of "The Gold-Bug" includes an annotation that claims the pestilence house was the "Bishop's Hostel" referred to in Poe's story. However, Spence's note makes no reference to the "hostel"'s role in the slave trade: "In the 1700s there was a 'Pest House' or 'Hostel' on Sullivan's Island which was run by the church (i.e., the 'Bishop') as a quarantine station for sailors or ship's passengers with yellow fever or other infectious diseases ('Pestilence')."

6. For another contrasting interpretation, see Leverenz, who argues that although Poe has Jupiter speak in minstrel-show dialect, "his language undermines the props for such ridicule, the white binaries of civilized and savage, honor and shame, even human and animal, as well as white and black" (117). Weissberg's is the most thorough discussion of race in "The Gold-Bug." She emphasizes Jupiter's literary antecedents, particularly in Robert Montgomery Bird's Sheppard Lee and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Weissberg also discusses Poe's story in terms of its Sullivan's Island setting and, particularly, the way Poe and "The Gold-Bug" remain part of the island's cultural landscape. Of course, that landscape has continued to change since Weissberg wrote her essay. Along with the improvements of the visitor's center and the placement of the African American history marker described above, a restaurant called "Poe's Tavern," complete with sandwiches named for Poe's tales and poems, opened in April 2003. Weissberg concludes that "Sullivan's Island now actively uses Poe to efface its own past" (154). Indeed, the public library, the small island next to Sullivan's, three street names, and now a restaurant refer to Poe or his writing, but on the other hand the Edgar Allan Poe library has no special Poe collection or exhibit, there is no marker at Fort Moultrie commemorating Poe, and virtually no marketing of Poe by the National Park Service. I certainly agree with Weissberg that African American history still does not receive enough attention on Sullivan's Island. For example, while the marker placed next to Fort Moultrie honors the memory of countless Africans who passed through Sullivan's Island into slavery, it deserves more prominent placement: visitors who park in the main lot across the street from the fort are unlikely to see it at all.

7. See Williams, Toner, and Hull.

8. See Lewis (267-70).

9. See Sanchez-Eppler (39), Karcher (166-68), and Lott (33) on "Mary French and Susan Easton." All three discuss the larger issue of racism on the part of white opponents of slavery. See also Karcher (336) on Child and the "tragic mulatto."

10. Karcher...

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