Poe’s popularity is unlike any other author. Though you can probably buy a t-shirt with Emily Dickinson’s face on it, or get a magnet of a Henry David Thoreau quote, they don’t have the same amount of recognition as Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s portrait is instantly recognizable. It’s heavily used to market things that are unique, dark, literary, or gothic, especially here in Baltimore. He’s on everything from beer bottles to bumper stickers. Does this wide use of Poe’s image help or hurt his literary legacy? Does having a NFL mascot made after him really help prolong the relevance of “The Raven” or create more readers of his poetry collections?
Most times you see an image of Edgar Allan Poe outside of a bookstore, it has nothing to do with literature. Sure, they make plays on words about his works, like a beer named “Pendulum Pilsner,” but rarely is it an item that’s literary in nature. However, I still think that that kind of use of Poe’s image helps his literary legacy. Though using a raven as a football mascot may not directly enhance Poe’s literary legacy, it’s a starting point. For example, if a child goes to a game and asks their parents why the mascot is a raven named Poe, their parents tell them it’s because of Edgar Allan Poe, the child asks who that is, and there is the opportunity for the emergence of a new reader of Edgar Allan Poe.
Watching a Poe-themed episode of the Simpsons may not have the literary prowess of reading Tell-Tale Heart, but it reminds people about the dark and disturbed Poe works they read in high school, maybe even encouraging them to look some of them up online. Also, I have never seen Poe’s image used in a negative way, in regards to the product or his legacy. Though they may take advantage of the disturbing nature of his literature, they never make him into a bad guy. Poe is always portrayed as a symbol for the unique and different-minded people.
Curiosity and exposure are key to maintaining a legacy of any kind. It doesn’t necessarily matter how the people are exposed, just that Poe’s name is getting out there and into the minds of random people, young and old. There is so much more to having a literary legacy than being referenced in a classroom. I believe that the mass use of Poe’s image is not only helping his legacy, I believe it’s the key to him having a legacy and is a big reason he is going to continue to be a well-known figure.