Adaptations and Editions: Two Critical Perspectives for Poe’s Legacy

Edgar Allan Poe was no doubt one of the most respected, well-known poets of all time. Throughout his life, he primarily wrote poems and stories that revolve around depressing and spooky themes. Consequently, many of his fans and non-fans alike view Poe as a master of the “dark arts,” which is a perspective that ultimately speaks to Poe’s legacy, that is, his legacy as a man who focused greatly on the darker aspects of literary creativity. Yet, there are certainly other factors that also serve to potentially influence Poe’s legacy. Specifically, various adaptations and different editions of Poe’s works serve to enhance Poe’s incredible legacy.

Various adaptations of Poe’s works undoubtedly enhance the popularity of Poe as a poet. Having lived in the 19th century, Poe employed a great amount of somewhat obscure, olden 19th century American language, making many of his poems and stories somewhat difficult to understand in their entireties for modern day readers, especially for younger audiences that are not yet advanced readers. For example, a somewhat complex poem for younger audiences, such as “To Helen” by Poe, can be presented and conveyed in a more efficient manner by translating the poem into simpler, modern day vocabulary. Although this would certainly detract from the original quality that makes Poe’s pieces incredibly unique, it would

ultimately convey the message and meaning of the poem, which is paramount for those who wish to understand Poe’s primary literary interests. Without adaptations, less-advanced readers will be able to appreciate Poe’s style, yet won’t be able to completely appreciate Poe’s intent and focus. Thus, using adaptations allows readers to attain a more complete perspective regarding Poe’s works, allowing them to gain a better understanding, and therefore appreciation of Poe as one of the most legendary American poets of all time.



(This image displays the original lines from the poem, “To Helen.” As you can see, the language is somewhat complex for portions of modern day audiences, especially children. In this case, an adapted version would certainly be of benefit with regards to better conveying the message and meaning of the poem to more readers in general).

Just as important as adaptions are the various editions of Poe’s works that have been made throughout the years, especially after his death. Just as modifying the actual work itself to more effectively relate to a larger audience does, providing different editions of his works can help to serve the very same purpose. For example, Poe’s manuscript of “Annabel Lee” and a blog posted, typed copy of the same poem each provide a different angle by which to appreciate the poem. A manuscript can function aesthetically, serving to please those who prefer semi- ancient vibes and authenticity of the piece. On the other hand, some may prefer a typed copy of the poem posted online because it is more legible and therefore easier to read than a handwritten copy from almost two centuries ago. Differing editions are crucial because they don’t primarily change the integrity or words of Poe’s stories or poems, but rather, they provide different ways to present these works. In addition, different editions of Poe’s works provides for different illustrations that accompany specific editions, allowing the reader to further polish their specific perspectives of each piece with the influence of associated images. This can be seen with the many dark, depressing pieces of artwork that accompanies many editions

of his poem, “Annabel Lee.” These editions maintain the same, unabridged text, yet the artwork provided with many of these editions still serves to further emphasize to the reader that the piece is most likely intended to be a sad one; although the artwork for each edition may be different, they all share the similar quality of reinforcing the tone of his poem. With regards to Poe himself, different editions of his works certainly enhance his legacy, as they collectively satisfy a larger target audience with various presentation styles and therefore increase Poe’s popularity in the public eye overall.


(Displayed here is an image of an original manuscript of “Annabel Lee” that was crafted by Poe. This certainly provides some level of aesthetic satisfaction when compared to simple, typed versions of this poem– the archaic vibe accentuates the “olden” language of the poem and provides for a much more spooky quality for the poem overall, making for a more entertaining piece for the reader).

Overall, Poe created innumerable works that have been consistently subject to adaptations and different editions. Both these adaptations and editions ultimately serve to complement his already respectable legacy by essentially appeasing a larger audience, and therefore substantially elevating his popularity as one of America’s all time greatest writers. Undoubtedly, Poe’s works have lived well- beyond his time on earth, and most likely forever will live—as a manifestation of his “afterlives.”


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