Humanities West Presents Edgar Allan Poe: Myths, Mysteries and Misconceptions

The popular image of Edgar Allan Poe is that of a sickly, gloomy, dour fellow obsessed with all things eerie and terrifying. Tragically, both for his personal life and because it reinforced this literary myth, Poe died on October 7, 1849, at just forty, in a painful, utterly bizarre manner that would not have been out of place in one of his own tales of terror. The literary effect of his untimely death was also compounded by the mystery of what happened to him, during the three days he went missing, before he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own. There has been a staggering amount of speculation about the cause of his death, from rabies and syphilis to suicide, alcoholism, and even murder. But many of these theories are based on the caricature we have come to associate with Poe: the gloomy-eyed grandfather of Goth, hunched over a writing desk with a raven perched on one shoulder, drunkenly scribbling his masterpieces. By debunking the myths of how he lived, we intend to come closer to understanding the real Poe.

Poe scholar Amy Branam Armiento will discuss select works by the master of the macabre. She will explain the temptations and dangers of linking Poe to his insane narrators and grief-stricken speakers as well as cover some examples of how he incorporated contemporary events into his poems and tales. Drawing upon her scholarship on Poe and women, Armiento will also elucidate the roles women have played in inspiring his writing, restoring his reputation, and sustaining his literary legacy for more than 200 years.

Mark Dawidziak will discuss how the grotesque stereotypes about Poe have little basis in fact, and will undercut the many myths and misconceptions that have obscured the versatile, prolific and dedicated artist responsible for such classic works as "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Purloined Letter," "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee." Dawidziak also will examine how Poe’s death, under haunting circumstances that reflect the mystery and horror genres that he took to new heights, has been one of the key factors keeping him alive in the 21st century as one of the best-read and most-recognized American writers.


Jolene Huey.


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Image - Amy Branam Armiento

Amy Branam Armiento

Professor of English, Frostburg State University; Past President, Poe Studies Association; Co-editor, Poe and Women: Recognition and Revision

Image - Mark Dawidziak

Mark Dawidziak

former Television, Film and Theater Critic, Akron Beacon Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer; Author, A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Image - George Hammond

In Conversation with George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates