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The Poet Edgar Allan Poe

The Poet Edgar Allan Poe

Alien Angel

Jerome McGann

ISBN 9780674416666

Publication date: 10/13/2014

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The poetry of Edgar Allan Poe has had a rough ride in America, as Emerson’s sneering quip about “The Jingle Man” testifies. That these poems have never lacked a popular audience has been a persistent annoyance in academic and literary circles; that they attracted the admiration of innovative poetic masters in Europe and especially France—notably Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Valéry—has been further cause for embarrassment. Jerome McGann offers a bold reassessment of Poe’s achievement, arguing that he belongs with Whitman and Dickinson as a foundational American poet and cultural presence.

Not all American commentators have agreed with Emerson’s dim view of Poe’s verse. For McGann, a notable exception is William Carlos Williams, who said that the American poetic imagination made its first appearance in Poe’s work. The Poet Edgar Allan Poe explains what Williams and European admirers saw in Poe, how they understood his poetics, and why his poetry had such a decisive influence on Modern and Post-Modern art and writing. McGann contends that Poe was the first poet to demonstrate how the creative imagination could escape its inheritance of Romantic attitudes and conventions, and why an escape was desirable. The ethical and political significance of Poe’s work follows from what the poet takes as his great subject: the reader.

The Poet Edgar Allan Poe takes its own readers on a spirited tour through a wide range of Poe’s verse as well as the critical and theoretical writings in which he laid out his arresting ideas about poetry and poetics.

Praise

  • McGann succeeds in forcing us to rethink Poe’s poetry… Poe’s sound experiments, especially his strange variations on meter, deserve, as McGann shows by citing numerous rhythmic anomalies, to be taken seriously… In an age of predominantly, and purposely, flat and prosaic ‘free verse,’ mnemonic patterning is perhaps re-emerging as the emblem of poetic power. In this sense, Poe is once again Our Contemporary… In making the case for the close link between the poetry and the aesthetic theory, [McGann] succeeds admirably: Poe’s reputation as poète maudit belies the fact that here was a poet who knew exactly what he was doing.

    —Marjorie Perloff, Times Literary Supplement

Author

  • Jerome McGann is University Professor and John Stewart Bryan Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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