English 177-2 - Fall, 2018

Study of an Individual Author

    Topic: Edgar Allan Poe

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 43029
Time: MWF 12:10-1:00
Location: 1132 Bainer


    My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.
    —E. A. Poe, Letter to James Russell Lowell, 2 July 1844

    Viciously maligned in his own obituary, initially left out of the American literary canon, his works reduced to fodder for the most tedious kinds of high school English class exercises—Edgar Allan Poe remains to this day the most misreceived writer in our national pantheon. And yet the Cult of Poe boasts some of the most influential writers and thinkers in modern history: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Conan Doyle, Paul Valéry, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, H. P. Lovecraft, Jacques Lacan, Agatha Christie, Stephen King…. Before his notorious death in acute poverty at the age of 40, Poe managed to become the wellspring of the American Gothic tradition, the inventor of the detective tale and the true-crime story, the herald of psychoanalysis, America’s first science-fiction writer, an anticipator of modern brain science and scientific cosmology, the inspiration for modern cryptography, a consummate hoaxer, and a sublime poet. Some say he must have had a Time Machine.

    In this course we will try to do justice to this amazing figure by reading a wide selection of Poe’s poetry, fiction, and essays, while also attending to his many historical contexts. We’ll get down and dirty with the lurid city journalism that he engaged with in his urban fiction, dwell on the popular pseudosciences that so fascinated him (mesmerism, phrenology, spirit-rapping, hollow-earth theory), and soar to the heights of abstraction in the psychoanalytic theories of the subject that flowed from his work.


    Attendance and Participation: 5%
    Blogging: 10%
    Discussion Backgrounding: 5%
    Article Summary: 5%
    Discussion Questions: 5%
    Kooky Sidebar: 5%
    Creative Response: 5%
    Short Paper: 15%
    Final Project: 30%
    Final Exam: 15%


    Purloined Poe, Muller and Richardson, eds.
    Mournful and Neverending Remembrance, Kenneth Silverman
    Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Allan Poe
    The Beautiful Cigar Girl, Daniel Stashower