Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race / Edition 1

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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 contributors to 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 shared notions 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 race extreme 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 with shrewdness 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 represent an 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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Editorial Reviews

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

"With nine varied essays, Romancing the Shadow addresses provocatively the vexed topic of Poe and race. With attention to both text and context, the authors of these essays elaborate a range of responses to the subject matter, ably demonstrating the validity of Toni Morrison's view that 'no early American writer is more important to the concept of American Africanism than Poe.'"—Richard Kopley, Pennsylvania State University, DuBois

"The essays included in this volume treat this subject with a variety of historical and theoretical approaches, and no two essays reach the same conclusion. It is a fascinating exercise in professional, critical dialogue, and readers of the volume will learn much. What they will learn will not just concern Poe. The essays in Romancing the Shadow raise provocative questions for American literary studies more generally, questions that go to the heart of our previous and present practice."—Dana Nelson, University of Kentucky

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195137118
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 1.00 (h) x 8.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louisiana State University

University of Pennsylvania

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Poe, Race, and Contemporary Criticism, J. Gerald Kennedy and Liliane Weissberg
1. Average Racism: Poe, Slavery, and the Wages of Literary Nationalism, Terence Whalen
2. The Poetics of Whiteness: Poe and the Racial Imaginary, Betsy Erkkila
3. Edgar Allan Poe's Imperial Fantasy and the American Frontier, John Carlos Rowe
4. Poe, Persons, and Property, Joan Dayan
5. Black, White, and Gold, Liliane Weissberg
6. Presence of Mind: Detection and Racialization in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", Lindon Barrett
7. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue": Amalgamation Discourses and the Race Riots of 1838 in Poe's Philadelphia, Elise Lemire
8. Poe's Philosophy of Amalgamation: Reading Racism in the Tales, Leland Person
9. "Trust No Man": Poe, Douglass, and the Culture of Slavery, J. Gerald Kennedy

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