“Before the Eye of the World”: Authorial Self-Construction in Poe’s Creative and Critical Canon

No Thumbnail Available
Verret, Laura
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
A skilled linguist from an early age, the young Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) believed himself to be a poet of great genius destined to engage in literary taste-making within the American literary establishment. His earliest attempts at publication, however, reaped little attention from that establishment, which preferred to consolidate its power through an exclusionary clique system that promoted its favorite authors at the expense of superior but lesser-connected artists. In 1831, Poe, recognizing his own disadvantaged position within this system, adapted his strategy for achieving a literary career within his era’s establishment and began to focus on reforming that establishment while carving out a place for himself within its ranks as a means of gaining audience for his poetry. This thesis examines Poe’s positioning of himself in relation to his era’s literary establishment, focusing particularly on how his professional and personal interactions with that establishment’s literati impacted the trajectory of his career and the subject matter of his canon. Pursuant on this theme, the thesis employs a historical-biographical lens to analyze selections from Poe’s Poems (1831), critical essays, book reviews, New York “Literati” sketches, and late revenge tales as a means of contextualizing Poe’s work and author-figure within his own print culture. Ultimately, this thesis argues that Poe employed his creative and critical works not only to carve out a position for himself and his works within the American literary establishment of the 1830s-1840s by placing himself “before the eye of the world,” but also to channel and transmute his affective responses to the repeated rejections, resistance, and retaliation he experienced at that establishment’s hands.
Author Studies, Edgar Allan Poe, Literary Salons, Poetry, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven, American literature, Literature