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Poe, Romance, and Race

ENGL 283.301
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

In the American Grain, William Carlos Williams debunks the idea of Poe as a morbid romantic transplanted onto American soil. "Poe was not 'a fault of nature', 'a find for French eyes' but a genius intimately shaped by this locality and time. It is to save our faces that we've given him a crazy reputation, a writer from whose classic accuracies we have not known how else to escape." This seminar will place Poe in his varying locales, dealing closely with his poetry, fiction, and criticism. This attempt to make Poe local will depend on providing new contexts for the study of his work: Newtonian mechanics, Calvinist predetermination, empirical philosophy, and, most important, natural histories of slavery. Whether he writes from Virginia, New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore, Poe addresses questions of property, slavery, superstition and status, questions that put him in dialogue with the romance of the South and the realities of race. In order to better situate Poe's texts in their contexts, this seminar will also include readings of three texts (all published in 1836), which have been ignored by the academy and remain out of print: Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, George Balcombe; Robert Bird, Sheppard Lee, and Richard Hildreth, Archy Moore, The White Slave; or Memoirs of a Fugitive.