Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race

Paperback | June 15, 2001

EditorJ. Gerald Kennedy, Liliane Weissberg

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The nine essays gathered here pursue the provocative implications of Toni Morrison's claim that no early American writer was more important than Poe in shaping a concept of "American Africanism," an image of racialized blackness destined to haunt the Euro-American imagination. As contributorsto this volume reveal, Poe's response to the "shadow" of blackness--like his participation in the cultural construction of whiteness--was both problematic and revealing. Born in Boston but raised mostly in Richmond, surrounded by the practices of slaveholding culture, Poe seems to have sharednotions of racial hierarchy and Anglo-Saxon supremacy pervasive on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. That he promulgated racist stereotypes in depicting black servants--his Jupiters and Pompeys--cannot be denied; that he complicated these stereotypes with veiled, subversive implications, however,gives his fiction peculiar relevance to the task of historicizing racial attitudes in antebellum culture. Was Poe an unabashed proslavery apologist, a careerist who avoided racial politics, a "gradualist" who hoped slavery would just disappear, or an ideological chameleon? Were Poe's views on raceextreme or unusual? Overtly, in tales such as "The Gold-Bug," "The Journal of Julius Rodman," and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and covertly in such works as "The Black Cat" and "Hop-Frog," Poe alternately caricatured and demonized the racial Other, yet he often endowed such figures withshrewdness and resourcefulness, at times portraying their defiance as inevitable and even understandable. In Romancing the Shadow, leading interpreters of nineteenth-century American literature and culture debate Poe's role in inventing the African of the white imagination. Their readings representan array of positions, and while they reflect some consensus about Poe's investment in racialized types and tropes, they also testify to the surprising ways that race embedded itself in his work--and the diverse conclusions that can be drawn therefrom.

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The nine essays gathered here pursue the provocative implications of Toni Morrison's claim that no early American writer was more important than Poe in shaping a concept of "American Africanism," an image of racialized blackness destined to haunt the Euro-American imagination. As contributorsto this volume reveal, Poe's response to the...

J. Gerald Kennedy is at Louisiana State University. Liliane Weissberg is at University of Pennsylvania.
Format:PaperbackPublished:June 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195137116

ISBN - 13:9780195137118

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Table of Contents

J. Gerald Kennedy and Liliane Weissberg: Introduction: Poe, Race, and Contemporary Criticism1. Terence Whalen: Average Racism: Poe, Slavery, and the Wages of Literary Nationalism2. Betsy Erkkila: The Poetics of Whiteness: Poe and the Racial Imaginary3. John Carlos Rowe: Edgar Allan Poe's Imperial Fantasy and the American Frontier4. Joan Dayan: Poe, Persons, and Property5. Liliane Weissberg: Black, White, and Gold6. Lindon Barrett: Presence of Mind: Detection and Racialization in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"7. Elise Lemire: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue": Amalgamation Discourses and the Race Riots of 1838 in Poe's Philadelphia8. Leland Person: Poe's Philosophy of Amalgamation: Reading Racism in the Tales9. J. Gerald Kennedy: "Trust No Man": Poe, Douglass, and the Culture of SlaveryBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"The ideas presented in Romancing the Shadow...stand as important additions to the field of Poe studies."--American Studies International