Edgar Allan Poe

If you think you know Poe, think again. You may already be familiar with “The Raven” and some well-known short stories, but the range and influence of Poe’s work is far wider than most people realize or acknowledge. He was a remarkable innovator, as well as the inventor of a number of popular genres, and his work offers us valuable and early insight into philosophy and psychology. Beyond this, he had a huge impact on literary and cultural history. His writing was central to the development of detective fiction, modernist painting and illustration, film, psychoanalysis, and literary theory. In this course, we’ll focus mainly on what Poe described as his works of the “Grotesque and the Arabesque,” including his Gothic tales of doubling and haunting, his tales of sensation, his philosophical speculations, and selected poems and criticism. We’ll pay attention to research on Poe within the psychoanalytic field by authors such as Marie Bonaparte, who considered Poe’s perverse neurotic tendencies in connection with the moral values of his writing. We’ll also consider the work of his best-known illustrators; we will also watch movies based on his works, and trace his complicated legacy in Baltimore, where he died mysteriously on October 7, 1849.

Required Reading:
You will need to buy The Portable Edgar Allan Poe, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy, (Penguin Classics). Used copies are available for as little as $3.00 on Amazon.com. Other editions are fine, but you should NOT use an electronic edition, since we will be focusing on very close readings, and you will need to refer to specific paragraphs and page numbers in class. Complete Works, Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

Week One: Introduction to the Course. D.W. Griffith, Edgar Allan Poe (1909) Read & discuss: “Introduction” by J. Gerald Kennedy; Chronology; A Note on Texts. Griswold obituary.

Week Two: Poe’s “Philosophy of Composition”
“The Raven” (1845) (p422) & “The Philosophy of Composition” (p543).

Week Three: Buried Alive! Part 1
Read: “The Premature Burial” (1844) (p59) and “Ligeia” (1850) (p111)

Week Four: Buried Alive! Part 2
“Berenice” (1835) (p97)

Week Five:
Sept 25: Buried Alive! Part 3
“The Fall of the House of Usher”
Visit the Poe Grave and Catacombs.

Week Six: Perversity: “The Black Cat” (1843) (p192)
“The Imp of the Perverse” (1845) (p202)

Week Seven: Obsessions and Compulsions
“The Man of the Crowd” (1840) (p229) and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843) (p187)

Week Eight: The Boundary between Life and Death
“Some Words with a Mummy” (1845) (p337) and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (1845) (p71)

Week Nine: Death & Disease
“The Masque of the Red Death”

Week Eleven: Poems & Letters
Introduction (p395-399). Read: “Alone” (p408); “To Helen” (p409); “Ulalume—A Ballad” (p426); “The Bells” (p430); “A Dream Within a Dream” (p434): “For Annie” (p435); “To My Mother” (p440); “Annabel Lee” (p441). Letters: p447-464; p491-492; p498; p506-511; p512-515; p519-521.

Week Twelve: True Crime: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842)
Read: Bill James, except from Popular Crime, pp 11-22.

Week Thirteen: The Mystery of Poe’s Death.