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  • Interview with G. R. Thompson:Lafayette, Indiana, May 22, 2018
  • Barbara Cantalupo
barbara cantalupo

I'd like to begin our interview with some historical perspective on your role as the editor of the Poe Newsletter, the first serial publication devoted to Poe's work. You started it in 1968, four years before the Poe Studies Association was founded. What prompted you to begin this newsletter, and how did it develop into the peer-reviewed journal Poe Studies?

g. r. thompson

When I was hired at Washington State University in 1966, they had just begun Ph.D. programs in comparative literature and American studies. The head of the English Department said that he wanted the faculty to think of ways to draw attention to the new programs. I had written a dissertation on Poe and had some articles in press awaiting publication. Despite Poe's popularity, there was no newsletter or society at that time except for the Baltimore Poe Society, which sponsored (and then published) annual lectures. When I suggested starting a Poe Newsletter, more or less like the Melville Society Extracts, the head of the WSU English Department, Emmett Avery, thought it a workable idea. I said that I didn't want the newsletter to be just typed or mimeographed—I wanted it to be a good-looking publication that might attract contributors. Professor Avery suggested that I talk to the university editor, Henry Grosshans, who liked the idea as an experiment for the new WSU Press. We came up with a double-columned printed format, and we asked a WSU student to draw a pen portrait of Poe with a touch of lugubrious humor to it.

I sent a small printed flyer announcing our project to every English department listed in PMLA as well as to several academic journals and asked for contributions and volunteers to help us out with reading manuscripts. The response was quite positive. Several well-known Poe scholars pitched in from the first. Among those on our initial editorial board were Richard P. Benton, Patrick F. Quinn, [End Page 153]


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Fig 1.

Photo courtesy Barbara Cantalupo.

and Claude Richard. That was just the beginning, and about the fourth year of publication the board was enlarged—the newsletter had expanded into a journal. But there were also some negatives. The first came from an established Poe scholar informing me that he expected to be on any editorial board and asking who the devil I thought I was to establish a Poe newsletter. He had never heard of me, and he, himself, had long been thinking of creating a Poe society—or at least a Poe newsletter.

bc:

Or at least a newsletter!??

grt:

Yes. Well, his was a name I recognized, and I accepted his help. But this incident was to be the first of a number of sometimes absurd conflicts with various Poe people. And this same person soon began doing things that directly competed with our fledgling journal.

bc:

Do you mean the newsletter? [End Page 154]


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Fig 2.

Photo courtesy Barbara Cantalupo.

grt:

The Poe Newsletter became a regular journal in its third year and was renamed Poe Studies. That was in 1970, a couple of years before the Poe Studies Association was founded.

bc:

How did that happen?

grt:

The newsletter grew quite naturally and easily into a journal. The name of Edgar Allan Poe was a big draw. We had gained a lot of subscribers and had a steady flow of submissions. [End Page 155]

bc:

Then, I'm confused: was the Poe Studies Association Newsletter a new entity or an extension of the Poe Newsletter? I don't know that, so I'm hoping you'll clarify this for me.

grt:

Ah, okay. The original Poe Newsletter didn't become the Poe Studies Association Newsletter; it became the journal Poe Studies. The PSA Newsletter was a new and separate publication organized mainly by the aforementioned person. The curious thing about all this was that when the PSA was founded in 1972, the general idea was that Poe Studies would become its official publication. That's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-2932
Print ISSN
2150-0428
Pages
pp. 153-168
Launched on MUSE
2019-05-21
Open Access
No
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