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Poe's Difference

R. C. De Prospo

Poe’s Difference argues that Edgar Allan Poe has much more in common with early American, medieval, and ancient writers than with the modern and post-modern ones with whom the writer is so often associated. This book emphasizes Poe’s anachronisms to make a number of theoretical, pedagogical, literary historical, and political claims about the backwardness of antebellum U.S. culture. Some time ago Michael Colacurcio issued the challenge that "the full case for the Puritan character of Poe’s ‘horror’ remains to be made." Although going back a good deal further than just to the "Puritans," Poe’s Difference aspires fully to make precisely this case.

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Chapter 1. “An Anomaly on the Face of the Earth”: Poe’s Reviews

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“An Anomaly on the Face of the Earth”1

Poe’s Reviews

I

The reason to study antebellum magazines and newspapers in the US would seem always to be the familiar one, predominant in the last decades of the twentieth century and very much alive and well presently, which is to get beneath the American Renaissance. The hope inspiring this excavation is to discover there, in America’s fundament, an exceptionally pure, exceptionally independent, exceptionally American Americanness: “ . . . it has not been recognized that one of the main weapons wielded by American writers against oppressive literary influence was a native idiom learned from their own popular culture.”

But it has been recognized, perennially, in more than a few noteworthy scholarly books written by several prominent Americanist scholars writing not only after but also before the publication of David Reynolds’s seminal study. Recognized by Henry Nash Smith, for prime example, who is thanked by Reynolds for personally, predictably, encouraging Reynolds’s project, and recognized also by many other likeminded populist researchers committed to subjecting themselves and their readers to sub-literature, so-called, in order to recuperate “the truly indigenous American literary texts [that] were produced←1 | 2→ mainly by those who had opened sensitive ears to a large variety of popular cultural voices.”2 Most recently, beginning in the 1990s and extending to this writing, there are books by such Americanist scholars as Jonathan Elmer, Terrence Whalen, Jonathan H. Hartman, and Paul Hurh that focus...

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