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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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Foreword: Poe’s Difference



Poe’s Difference

Quand on écrit l’histoire, il faut n’être d’aucune pays

— Voltaire

Staat heißt das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer. Kalt lügt es auch;

und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: “Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.”

— Nietzsche

“The rarest book in all of American literature walked out of the McGregor Room vault in 1973.” Even considering the possibility that the University of Virginia’s alumni magazine would exaggerate the importance of a book by its second-most favorite, albeit prodigal, son in one of its articles, a consensus of rare book experts cited in the article would seem to concur that UVA’s stolen copy of one of the very few surviving editions of the privately printed 1827 Tamerlane and Other Poems is, indeed, “the rarest book in all of American literature.” There’s no denying its author’s continuing prominence in American letters, even beyond Charlottesville VA, although perhaps not so much for literary as for less exalted distinctions; the article disparages the contents of what one rare book expert names “‘the black tulip and Holy Grail of American book collecting’” as no more than so much “boyhood verse.”1 ←ix | x→

Contemplate the possibility that the writings of a major mid-nineteenth-century US fiction writer, poet, critic, rhetorician, and reviewer—not one of Matthiessen’s five big men but certainly in the opinion of a growing contingent of contemporary Americanists a neglected potential...

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