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R E V I E W JEFFREY ANDREW WEINSTOCK AND TONY MAGISTRALE, EDS. Proceed with Caution: Poe in the Classroom Approaches to Teaching Poe’s Prose and Poetry. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008. xix, 241 pp. $19.75 paper. I n a notable understatement, this volume’s editors find it “noteworthy” that Poe’s appearance in the distinguished MLA Approaches to Teaching series has been long overdue. Indeed, the delay verges on the unseemly, given that the MLA has previously published more than one hundred titles, many of them devoted to American writers and works. Yet belated or grudging acknowledgment of Poe’s canonical status in the literary curriculum is less surprising than it is symptomatic. The history of Poe’s career and reception is replete with an anxious awareness of the boundaries of literary culture and the mechanics of popular appeal. The author himself, his compatriots, and later critics have been inordinately sensitive to the affective power of the written word, with the result that the extraordinary reach of Poe’s impact has been a problem, or even an embarrassment, especially to his American commentators. It is the ambition of the collection under review to demonstrate, yet again, the legitimacy of devoting serious attention to the prose and poetry of Mr. Poe. As a guide to classroom resources and pedagogical strategies, this anthology of articles is a model of its kind. In the “Materials” section, the editors have assembled a truly comprehensive and evaluative account of the key texts, secondary literature, and supplemental media and websites currently available to instructors. All levels of engagement with Poe’s legacy are honored, from Lovecraft to Lacan, including audio-visual tributes and parodies, from Rachmaninoff to Roger Corman to The Simpsons’s version of “The Raven.” The editors also deserve credit for gathering a full array of generational and ideational perspectives on Poe’s writing; the essays provide a sufficiently rich variety of scholarly advice and pedagogical practice to inspire refashioned presentations of the Poe so regularly and routinely encountered in popular culture and academic curricula. In short, the volume serves admirably the aim intended by the MLA series. It will surely help any teacher at any level to reimagine the features of Poe constructed in the classroom. C  2009 Washington State University 148 P O E S T U D I E S , VOL. 42, 2009 R E V I E W Despite its variety of voices and approaches, however, the volume on every page bespeaks its cultural placement and moment. The essays persuasively document the fraught position of Edgar Allan Poe in U.S. higher education, collectively representing not only an educated American perspective on Poe but also a wary Americanist appropriation of Poe. Understandably, there has been, in the last few decades, a strenuous scholarly effort to rectify the pervasive impression, at home and abroad, that Poe was only accidentally American, a writer untethered to his place and time. Whether or not the individual contributors identify themselves explicitly with new historicist or cultural studies scholarship, with very few exceptions the volume is quite literally anxious to historicize and contextualize the textual Poe. This is not a weakness, but it is itself a cultural symptom. In all three sections of the volume one can observe instructors of American literature who handle Poe with exceptional caution. There is a shared sense that a corrective adjustment is still called for in the American classroom. Teachers rightly anticipate that students are already acquainted with Poe and that, beyond like or dislike, they approach Poe with a presumption of his psychological and cultural “deviancy.” As a result, in essay after essay the authors display their anxiety over the widespread perception of an “un-American” Poe, and they strive in numerous and fascinating ways to incorporate him into the national project. Given Poe’s undeniable world status and notorious French adoption, this collective enterprise could be seen as indicative of the contemporary American attempt to repossess Poe. That said, let me promptly acknowledge in brief compass some of the impressive scholarly insights and innovative pedagogies to be gained from serious attention to this volume of essays. Scott Peeples begins the anthology with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 148-152
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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