Edgar Allan Poe as Amateur Psychologist

A Companion Anthology

by Brett Zimmerman (Volume editor)
©2021 Monographs XVI, 274 Pages


Locating Poe firmly within his Zeitgeist vis-à-vis the science and pseudoscience of the early nineteenth century, Edgar Allan Poe as Amateur Psychologist: A Companion Anthology simultaneously looks back from the 1830s and 1840s (when his literary career was at its height) to eighteenth-century theories and sources of information on mental illness, as well as forward to our own time to demonstrate how Poe’s dramatizations of psychological diseases occasionally anticipate modern nosological classifications and twenty-first-century forensic research. This interdisciplinary collection is a companion to its predecessor, Zimmerman’s Edgar Allan Poe: Amateur Psychologist (Peter Lang, 2019); it gathers the most important essays by authors—Hungerford, Stauffer, Stern, Bynum, Cleman, Hester and Segir, Phillips, Shackelford, Scheckel, Lloyd-Smith, Whipple, Butler, Uba, Walker, Zimmerman—who employ historicist and history-of-ideas methodologies. Topics include Poe’s use of and eventual disillusionment with phrenology; his attitude toward the controversial “moral treatment” of the insane as well as the “insanity defense” and its connection with the new theory of “moral insanity”; the possible sources of his knowledge of theories of mind, psychopathology and related therapies; his evolution as an amateur psychologist; the connection between physiological sickness and mental distress (the psychosomatic); and the ways in which the psychological profiles of his homicidal characters look forward to modern serial killers. This companion anthology represents a significant addition to Poe scholarship and will be of interest not only to Poe specialists but also to students, teachers, and any intelligent reader interested in the history of ideas and the intersection between literature and “mental philosophy.”

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Brett Zimmerman)
  • Part One Phrenology
  • Chapter One Poe and Phrenology (Edward Hungerford)
  • Chapter Two Poe: “The Mental Temperament” for Phrenologists (Madeleine B. Stern)
  • Chapter Three Poe as Phrenologist: The Example of Monsieur Dupin (Donald B. Stauffer)
  • Part Two Mainstream Psychology
  • Chapter Four Poe’s Two-Edged Satiric Tale1: [“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether”] (William Whipple)
  • Chapter Five The Psychological Context of Three Tales by Poe (Allan Gardner Lloyd-Smith (Allan Smith))
  • Chapter Six Mere Household Events: The Metaphysics of Mania (Elizabeth C. Phillips)
  • Chapter Seven “Observe How Healthily—How Calmly I Can Tell You the Whole Story”: Moral Insanity and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (Paige Matthey Bynum)
  • Chapter Eight Irresistible Impulses: Edgar Allan Poe and the Insanity Defense (John Cleman)
  • Chapter Nine “The Black Cat” and Current Forensic Psychology (Vicki Hester and Emily Segir)
  • Chapter Ten “Infected by Superstitions”:: Folie à Deux in “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Lynne Piper Shackelford)
  • Chapter Eleven Home-Sickness, Nostalgia, and Therapeutic Narrative in Poe’s: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Susan Scheckel)
  • Chapter Twelve Charley Goodfellow as Psychopathic Personality in “Thou Art the Man” (Brett Zimmerman)
  • Part Three The Psychosomatic
  • Chapter Thirteen The “Legitimate Sources” of Terror in: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (I. M. Walker)
  • Chapter Fourteen Usher’s Hypochondriasis: Mental Alienation and Romantic Idealism in Poe’s Gothic Tales (David W. Butler)
  • Chapter Fifteen Malady and Motive: Medical History and “The Fall of the House of Usher” (George R. Uba)
  • Appendices
  • Appendix One The Phrenological Faculties
  • Appendix Two “The Trial of James Wood”
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index


←xii | xiii→

As a final sabbatical project to be concluded before early retirement, a companion anthology to Edgar Allan Poe: Amateur Psychologist seemed a logical and reasonable endeavor. No one warned me, however, about the difficulties of securing permission to republish the work of other scholars, especially when those scholars published decades ago and/or are no longer in this world. For instance, an early surprise came when I sought permission from the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) to reprint I. M. Walker’s “The ‘Legitimate Sources’ of Terror in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,” which appeared originally in The Modern Language Review, volume 61, no. 4 (1966), pages 585–92. In an email from Cambridge dated 11 June, 2020, Gerard Lowe, Senior Publishing Manager, MHRA, replied, surprisingly, that they had “no record of assignment of copyright in this article.”

Even more frustrating was my attempt to secure permission to republish pages 112–37 of “Mere Household Events: The Metaphysics of Mania,” a chapter from Elizabeth Phillips’ 1979 book Edgar Allan Poe: An American Imagination (Port Washington: Kennikat). The book had been reprinted by Associated Faculty Press Inc. I found information on neither Kennikat nor Associated Faculty Press. I did manage to get in touch with Jon Moore at AskZSR, who replied in an email (23 Feb., 2020) that he could not “find Kennikat Press listed in any directories of active publishers, which means the most likely situation here is that they’ve gone out of business.” He also suggested that Associated Faculty Pr. “is ←xiii | xiv→most likely defunct itself,” as it had not published anything in years. Mr. Moore then put me in touch with Molly Keener, who confirmed that both Kennikat and Associate Faculty Press are out of business. The author, Phillips, has passed away.

Around the same time that I was playing detective trying to track down the copyright owner(s) of Phillips’ monograph, I was seeking permission to republish Donald B. Stauffer’s essay “Poe as Phrenologist: The Example of Monsieur Dupin” (113–25), which was published in the 1972 collection Papers on Poe: Essays in Honor of John Ward Ostrom, edited by Richard P. Veler. The publisher was Chantry Music Press at Wittenberg University, in Springfield, Ohio. Online searches for Chantry got me nowhere but I was lucky enough to contact Lori Askeland, Chair, Department of English at Wittenberg. Professor Askeland very kindly copied my email to their university archivist, Suzanne Smailes, who informed me that Chantry had been subsumed under Augsberg Press. Nobody at Augsberg seemed to know what I was talking about, however, when I emailed them. I then contacted Charles Shepherdson, a professor at the Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, University at Albany, SUNY, who put me in touch with Professor Stauffer himself, who granted permission in the absence of any clear indications from Chantry and Augsberg. In the case of permissions regarding the articles by Stauffer, Phillips, and Walker, therefore, I believe the standard statement applies: “All reasonable efforts have been made to secure permissions.”

Far easier, when it came to securing permission, were the five articles—fully a third of this edition—published originally by Duke University Press. I am happy to express my enormous sense of gratitude to Diane Grosse (Manager, Rights & Licensing) for her quick responses and guidance, as I stumbled around tripping over my naivety and inexperience in an editorial capacity. The oldest of Duke’s articles, which takes us all the way back to 1930, is Edward Hungerford’s “Poe and Phrenology,” which appeared initially in American Literature, volume 2, no. 1 (209–31). Madeleine B. Stern’s “The Mental Temperament for Phrenologists” first saw light in American Literature, volume 40, no. 2, in 1968 (155–63). Duke UP also owns the copyright to John Cleman’s 1991 essay “Irresistible Impulses: Edgar Allan Poe and the Insanity Defense,” which was published in American Literature, volume 63, no. 4 (623–40). David W. Butler’s “Usher’s Hypochondriasis: Mental Alienation and Romantic Idealism in Poe’s Gothic Tales” came out in the March, 1976, edition of American Literature, volume 48, no. 1 (1–12). Duke also published George Uba’s “Malady and Motive: Medical History and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’” in South Atlantic Quarterly, volume 85, no. 1 (10–22).

Other permissions were relatively easy once the proper connections had been made. As with Edgar Allan Poe: Amateur Psychologist, once again I am indebted to Diana L. Pesek, the Journals Manager at Penn State UP. Lynne Shackelford contacted Ms. Pesek about our desire to have reprinted in this collection her article “‘Infected by Superstitions’: Folie à Deux in ‘The Fall of the House of ←xiv | xv→Usher’,” first published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, volume 18, no. 2 (109–24), © Penn State UP, 2017. This article is used by permission of The Pennsylvania State University Press. Ms. Pesek also guided Vicki Hester, who was enquiring about the possibility of republishing an article she co-authored with Emily Segir, “‘The Black Cat’ and Current Forensic Psychology,” which appeared in the Edgar Allan Poe Review, volume 15, no. 2 (175–93), © Penn State UP, 2014. This article is also used by permission of The Pennsylvania State University Press. Another easy catch was Susan Scheckel’s “Home-Sickness, Nostalgia, and Therapeutic Narrative in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’,” which was published in Poe Studies 50 (2017), 12–25. The copyright is owned by Johns Hopkins University Press and Washington State University and is reprinted here with permission of Johns Hopkins UP. Thanks to Hannah Wampler, the Rights & Permissions Office Assistant, for her letter granting permission.

In some cases, human contact was not always possible or easily achieved: permissions had to be granted by way of complicated online forms. Even so, I did get assistance from Sara Martínez, Rights Sales Assistant, Springer Nature, for her guidance regarding the republication of Paige Matthey Bynum’s essay “‘Observe How Healthily—How Calmly I Can Tell You the Whole Story’: Moral Insanity and Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.” This article was published in Literature and Science as Modes of Expression (141–52), edited by Frederick Amrine. It was #115 of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, published by Springer Nature, and is copyright © 1989, Kluwer Academic Publishers. Involving no human contact was the online challenge involving “The Psychological Context of Three Tales by Poe,” published by Allan Smith (hereafter cited by his final name of Allan Gardner Lloyd-Smith) in the Journal of American Studies, volume 7, no. 3 (279–92). The essay is copyright © Cambridge University Press. Finally, not involving any intimidating online forms or defunct presses was William Whipple’s 1954 article “Poe’s Two-Edged Satiric Tale,” published in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, volume 9, no. 2 (121–33). No permissions are involved in this case because Whipple’s essay is “in the public domain,” but it should be noted that the article’s copyright is owned by the University of California Press.

While seeking copyright holders and permissions, I have had the good fortune of coming in contact with several of the authors—thanks entirely to the willingness of their colleagues to reach out to them on my behalf when I failed to track down the necessary email addresses. I could not have enjoyed the long-distance company of John Cleman, for example, were it not for the assistance of Dr. Linda Greenberg, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of English at the California State University, Los Angeles. Kathleen Maloney, the Chair of the Department of English Literature and Language at St. Mary’s University, assisted me in contacting Vicki Hester. Thanks as well to Charles Shepherdson, Professor at the Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, ←xv | xvi→University at Albany, SUNY, for his invaluable help in putting me in touch with Donald Stauffer; and to Corban Davis, in the Department of American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who helped me when I was attempting to contact Paige Bynum. I am both profoundly grateful and deeply touched by the kindness and willingness to help shown by my American cousins south of the Canadian border. I should not forget to thank Professor David E. E. Sloane, who agreed to provide an endorsement for this book’s back cover. My association with Dave goes back to the early 1990s when, as editor of Essays in Arts and Sciences, he oversaw the publication of several of my early essays on Melville.

As with the companion book to the current monograph, the good people at Peter Lang guided me once again with timely responses and expertise. Meagan Simpson began the adventure with an enthusiastic response to my initial email enquiry—essentially, a very informal proposal. After months of wise advice from Meagan vis-à-vis the struggle to obtain permissions, I had the contract in hand just as Meagan was stepping down as Acquisitions Editor—to be replaced by the very talented Philip Dunshea.

Closer to home, I have been grateful for the several avenues available at York University, Toronto, for scholars seeking financial assistance in the productions of their projects, including Human Resources and the Professional Expense Reimbursement program (PER), not to mention the Minor Research Grant competition. As for this latter, several capable people were involved in helping me seek funding for this project. Specifically, for their invaluable guidance—without which I was little more than a blithering idiot overwhelmed and intimidated by the logistics of grant application—I would like to express my gratitude to David Cuff, Director of Strategic Research & Partnerships, Office the Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS); Ives Polking, Administrative Assistant, Research, Office of the Dean (LA&PS); and Paminderjit Sunner (Pam), Secretary, Committee on Research Policy and Planning (LA&PS).

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to Darlene Munro, a graphics designer who applied her considerable talents in digitally tracing the phrenology illustration (Figure 1.1) in order to improve its quality and make it “camera-ready” for publication. Ms. Munro also replaced the (sometimes barely legible) words and numbers on the diagram with modern fonts to improve readability.


“If in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul—that I have deduced this terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results.” (1: 151)1

“He was an adventurer into vaults and cellars and horrible underground passages of the human soul.” (D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature 87–88)

“One need not be a Chamber—to be Haunted—/ One need not be a House—/ The Brain has Corridors—surpassing/ Material Place—” (Emily Dickinson, Final Harvest #670)

“El sueño de la razón produce monstruous.” (“The sleep of reason breeds monsters”) (Francisco de Goya, Los Caprichos)

* * *


XVI, 274
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 274 pp., 2 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Brett Zimmerman (Volume editor)

Brett Zimmerman received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA and PhD from York University, from which he retired as Associate Professor. He has published Herman Melville: Stargazer (1998), Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style (2005), and Edgar Allan Poe: Amateur Psychologist (2019).


Title: Edgar Allan Poe as Amateur Psychologist
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