- Steampunk Poeby Edgar Allan Poe, Illustrated by Zdenko Bašic´ and Manuel Šumberac, edited by Ellie O’Ryan and Marlo Scrimizzi, and: American Gothic: From Salem Witchcraft to H. P. Lovecraft, An Anthology, 2nd ed. edited by Charles L. Crow
Both of these new anthologies situate Edgar Allan Poe in different genres. The new edition of the anthology American Gothichas the easier course, as readers have long acknowledged Poe as a foremost practitioner of U.S. Gothic. Indeed, Poe has more selections in American Gothicthan any other writer, and only the reprinting of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw(1898) occupies more pages. Charles Crow culls the four tales (“The Fall of the House of Usher” ; “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” ; “The Cask of Amontillado” ; “Hop-Frog” ) and five poems (“The City in the Sea” ; “Dream Land” ; “The Raven” ; “Ulalume” ; “Annabel Lee” ) in American Gothicmore from late Poe, but the selection splits the difference between ubiquitous works and less common ones. The texts of the tales are credited to the Rufus Griswold edition of Poe’s Works, and the poems’ texts are mostly credited to initial periodical publications. The brief headnote to the anthology’s Poe section sketches his life and the frequent one-sidedness of biographical account to caution readers (conceived as college English students) against understanding the works autobiographically. To suggest alternatives, Crow notes Poe’s influence on poetry and genre fiction, describes Poe’s works “as deliberate experiments in achieving the Gothic effects” (a common metatextual motif in many of Crow’s headnotes), and mentions the works’ conversations with dark Romanticism and antebellum U.S. society, such as reading “Hop-Frog” as a fabular rebellion of enslaved workers (94).
Crow’s headnotes are one of the strongest aspects of his editorial work in American Gothic; they point toward possible generative readings of individual works as well as intertextual connections among works by other writers in the anthology without much overt prescription. Poe hinges many of these suggested connections. Headnotes for Cotton Mather, John Neal, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Lippard, Rose Terry Cooke, Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, Ambrose Bierce, Alexander Posey, and H. P. Lovecraft all make [End Page 110]comparisons with Poe in terms of influence, themes, or specific formal devices, often concerning narration. Two American Gothicfootnotes invite comparisons between Poe works and tales by Harriet Prescott Spofford and Jack London. The collection also contains a cross-referenced thematic table of contents with thirty-two entries, which can facilitate comparative work by students. The table lists Poe works under seventeen categories, including “Degeneration & Atavism,” “Imprisonment,” and “Incest.”
The second edition has excellent editorial changes, thoughtful shifts in what it reprints from writers already present, and fifty pages more than the 1999 first edition. The Poe selection remains unchanged except for a clear demarcation between the tales and the poetry in the table of contents. The need to drop selections from James Fenimore Cooper, Alice Cary, Mark Twain, and Lafcadio Hearn in the second edition is unfortunate, but is more than made up for by the addition of material from Mather, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Cooke, Madeline Yale Wynne, Gertrude Atherton, Elia Wilkinson Peattie, Robert W. Chambers, Edgar Lee Masters, Posey, and Lovecraft as well as an anonymous folk tale. The additions increase the number of texts (often by white writers) representing American Indians, slavery, and the cosmic horror of Weird fiction in the anthology as well as expanding by a third its selection of (white) women writers. Even the cover of American Gothic, Elihu Vedder’s Memory(1870), makes an important gesture toward Sarah Burns’s scholarship linking nineteenth-century American painting to the Gothic tradition. A potential third edition of American Gothic...