Poe, Literature, and the Marketplace by John Grammer Edgar Allan Poe and the Masses: The Political Economy of Literature in Antebellum America. By Terence Whalen. Princeton: Princeton UP 1999. xi + 328 pp. $55.00. Poe is a divided figure in many ways: the partisan of southern literature who identified himself as "a Bostonian," the sensitive artist who pursued a military career, the highly efficient magazine editor and the hopeless drunk. Among these oppositions is the one between the Poe who personified the "angelic imagination" (Allen Tate's phrase), the uncompromising follower of pure art, and Poe the man of business, shrewdly calculating the wages of literary endeavor. Terence Whalen's Edgar Allan Poe and the Masses is a consistently and surprisingly illuminating effort to understand Poe's work in relation to this last division, to understand his imagination in relation to his economic life. The success is surprising because this topic generates, for me at least, rather low expectations: must we be told again that art and business sometimes conflict and that Poe felt trapped in "the magazine prison house"? But Whalen moves well beyond both romantic lamentations about the selling of beauty and grim Marxist demonstrations of the determining force
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jun 3, 2002
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