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R E V I E W RICHARD KOPLEY Detecting Poe in Dupin’s Detection Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008. ix, 272 pp. £45.00 cloth. R ichard Kopley’s Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries is a slim but ambitious volume of literary criticism. He proposes in the introduction that Dupin’s “detection may be taken as an allegory of our own potential reading,” that we may profitably employ a simulacrum of Dupin’s methods of solving crimes “to solve some of the mysteries of Poe’s detective fiction” [2]—that is, of its genesis and meaning. Whereas others have recognized the ways in which the Dupin stories (and the detective fiction they spawned) position the reader as sleuth and the sleuth as reader, usually to open a “postmodern” inquiry into Poe’s fiction, Kopley’s interest is to demonstrate the continued relevance of critical practices that have come to be regarded by some as outmoded. Thus, he finds in Dupin’s “minuteness of attention” to newspaper accounts of crime justification for a “new formalism” or “close reading” of Poe’s much-read detective tales. Similarly, he finds in Dupin’s consideration of “things outside the game,” of “collateral and circumstantial events” and “the seemingly irrelevant,” a rationale for studying sources “outside the text”—that is, for a “genetic criticism” [2-3]. Finally, Kopley suggests we mimic Dupin’s method of identifying with criminal antagonists in order to identify with Poe, both as a reader of texts (again to justify a genetic criticism) and as a person, to bring to light a biographical reading of the Dupin stories that is suggested by the sources Kopley unearths. In Dupin’s “blended critical approach” to crime solving, Kopley sees the potential of a practical criticism or, borrowing a term from David Reynolds, a “reconstructive criticism” that can lead us to a more synthetic understanding of Poe’s detective tales [5]. Kopley devotes a chapter to close readings of structural and verbal symmetries in the Dupin mysteries, three chapters to the investigation of sources (a chapter for each of the stories), and a chapter to biographical interpretation. A brief introduction and conclusion round out Kopley’s study, to which he appends a facsimile reprint of Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s edition of the Dupin stories, minus Mabbott’s headnotes and footnotes. The design is reminiscent of The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading, edited by John P. Muller and William J. Richardson [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. C  2009 Washington State University P O E S T U D I E S , VOL. 42, 2009 135 R E V I E W Press, 1988], which includes Mabbott’s edition of “The Purloined Letter” (with his notes) at the front of a collection of essays responding to Lacan’s famous “seminar” on the tale. Perhaps Kopley intends his volume as a counterweight to that one, whose postmodern, psychoanalytic discourse he dismisses as unsatisfying [83]. His introductory remarks also suggest that he intends the book for students and college teachers. Proposing to revive formalist, genetic, and biographical criticism of Poe and to contribute to the fields of book history and cultural studies too, Kopley seems to have in mind those textbook editions that seek to introduce undergraduates to a variety of literary approaches. But he does not explain why he reprints Mabbott’s edition of the Dupin stories, leaving the impression that the book was too short to publish without them (117 pages of his text and notes) and perhaps too long (in the publisher’s view?) to publish with Mabbott’s notes included. Since the book is not designed explicitly for classroom use, the reprinting of Mabbott’s edition of the tales seems unnecessary, especially for readers like me, prompted several times by Kopley’s citations to pull Mabbott’s volumes from the shelf to check his notes. I am harping on this point to explain my characterization of the volume as “slim.” Make no mistake, Kopley’s discoveries and discussion of sources for the Dupin mysteries, and his biographical reading in relation to them, are provocative and rewarding, but his “reconstructive criticism” is generally too brief...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 135-143
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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