Poe in the American Canon.

Why is it that Edgar Allan Poe is so deeply intertwined into the fabric of American culture and literature? Why is he so adored and loved over various different generations, inspiring countless renditions of his works. He not only inspires literary work,

William Abbott Pratt, portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. Daguerreotype copy. circa 1854, of an 1849 daguerreotype.

but his influence also extends to illustrations, songs, and even modern action figures. Why is Edgar Allan Poe so popular among Americans? He isn’t remembered for being the most attractive writer because his most remembered portrait is a decrepit one. Nor was it because of his personality, as he was a short tempered drunk. Even one hundred and fifty years after his death, he still resonates with people today.

Poe was a renaissance man, being a master of a variety of forms including poetry, science fiction, and mystery. “The Raven”, one of Poe’s masterpieces, has been reprinted numerous times after its initial print in 1845 because of its popularity. He had the ability to draw on different aspects of his skills, combining them like his prose poem, Eureka, which shows a glimpse into his perception of reality that holds some merit in modern science. Poe paved the way for analytic detective fiction by writing the widely acclaimed “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Authors such as Conan Doyle and his rendition of detective short fiction with Sherlock Holmes show deep rooted influence from Poe. Poe’s influence on Conan Doyle show just one of many reasons as to why Edgar Allan Poe deserves to be part of the American Canon. His ability to write with such control and beauty allows Poe to be at the forefront of American literature

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition.” Graham’s Magazine, April 1846
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Graham’s Magazine, April 1841.
Quarles [Edgar Allan Poe], “The Raven.” The American Review: A Whig Journal of Politics, Literature, Art & Science, February 1845
John Philip Sousa, “annabel Lee: Song,” lyrics by Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia Thomas Presser Co., 1931.



Maybe it is Poe’s imperfections as a person and his life story that resonates with many of us, particularly writers. He had to live through adversity, as his life was filled with lack of money, deaths, and parental abuse. These hardship can be shared by many American writers. His main occupation was being a writer. Whether it be reviews, poems, stories, or essays, Poe was a man who made ends meet with pen and paper. He is the embodiment of the American author’s dream, to live off his work and being recognized for it. Poe’s place in the American canon should not be a place of debate as his track record shows his numerous contributions to literature.

From the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection

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