In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

R E V I E W STUART LEVINE AND SUSAN F. LEVINE, EDS. Examining Poe’s Critical Theory Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Theory, the Major Documents. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009. xiii, 229 pp.$50.00 cloth. O ne could easily fill a very large room with printings of Poe’s poetry and tales. These works have even appeared in multiple scholarly and annotated editions. Far more voluminous is the diverse body of Poe’s writings in the vein of criticism, essays, lectures, and miscellaneous items, but this material has never enjoyed the same degree of circulation or attention. Ironically, it is in these relatively neglected pieces that we are most likely to find important keys to understanding Poe’s more popular writings. It is, perhaps, fair to suggest that Poe is being more than a little disingenuous in his “Philosophy of Composition,” but along with the overly intellectual boasting of how he came to create “The Raven” is also much that appears to be genuinely revealing, including his now famous dictum that “the death . . . of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” [65]. All of the texts collected here have been reprinted previously, if only occasionally, although the 1902 edition edited by J. A. Harrison [The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: T. Y. Crowell, 17 vols.] omits most of the longer quoted material from the printings of several items, which the Levines have very helpfully restored. The prospectuses have generally appeared only as scattered items, and “Notes upon English Verse” has been reprinted in full only once since it first appeared in 1843. Even when these items have resurfaced, there has been woefully little attempt at the kind of presentation and annotation needed to make them accessible to a modern reader, a hole now impressively filled by the present edition. Thus, this volume “now lying before us”—as Poe would say—is most welcome, and indeed overdue. Unfortunately, the title of this book, while not entirely inappropriate, is somewhat misleading. The prospectuses for Poe’s often proposed yet never to be realized “Penn” and “Stylus” are certainly important, and usefully collected here, but are they really “major documents” in his critical theory? If the preface to The Raven and Other Poems is such a document, why not also include the preface to Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (and, for the sake of completeness , the short preface to Tamerlane and Minor Poems)? Most of the material C  2009 Washington State University P O E S T U D I E S , VOL. 42, 2009 113 R E V I E W included chiefly addresses Poe’s poetical interests, but the “Exordium” and the prospectuses divert from such a focus. Surely a number of Poe’s reviews—such as his revised notices titled “Tale-Writing: Nathaniel Hawthorne” [Godey’s Lady’s Book, November 1847] and “The American Drama” [American Review, August 1845]—would be considered critical to establishing his literary theory, particularly in regard to prose. What, then, should one call this assortment of odds and ends, too miscellaneous in nature to give a complete picture of any specific aspect of Poe’s writings, and yet too important to allow for the somewhat dismissive sense of being a miscellany? It must be recognized, however, that this selection has been substantially formed by external forces. As the editors acknowledge, one should think of this collection in the context of the comprehensive edition begun by Thomas Ollive Mabbott and continued by Burton R. Pollin. (Indeed, the editors make judicious use of Mabbott’s collection of notes at the University of Iowa.) Under Mabbott’s plan, the reviews and notices were to be arranged in volumes dedicated to the various periodicals in which they had originally appeared. (This approach allowed the editor to avoid attempting to organize the material thematically, and also fit Mabbott’s intention to eliminate the laborious step of typesetting, instead reproducing pages from each magazine as facsimiles of the original texts, an intention that was ultimately followed, to mixed response, for the volumes drawn from the Broadway Journal and the Southern Literary Messenger.) The Levines had been designated to prepare...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 113-129
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.