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Poe and the Political

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Organizer: Karen Grumberg

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It is a well-established fact that Edgar Allan Poe is a world author, influential far beyond the borders of the United States and the English language. Baudelaire’s translations of Poe’s stories, while widely credited with bringing Poe to Europe, are only one example of Poe’s extraordinarily wide reach across not only Europe but to regions beyond, including Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Poe, it is clear, is a world author.
This panel proceeds from recognition of Poe's global presence, but aims to narrow the scope by examining the way Poe’s works, both in translation and in the original English, engage with the political or are mobilized to political ends. Papers might consider the political affiliations of Poe’s translators in particular languages and how these relate to their choice to translate Poe. They might take a new approach to the politics of Poe as they have been identified or debated in specific works, or consider the developments and shifts in the scholarship on Poe. They might speak to how American authors have perceived Poe’s political inclinations through his fiction, poetry, or literary criticism. The goal, then, is to address the encounter between Poe’s works and the political through multiple prisms that may not be readily reconcilable. The adaptability of Poe’s works allows it to thrive across multiple languages and regions; to what extent is this translatability evident in the context of sometimes contradictory political interpretations in the United States (for instance, regarding Poe’s stance on slavery or race), or translations or appropriations in other national contexts, which expose sometimes surprising affinities?
This panel welcomes presentations that consider the political in Poe from domestic American perspectives and beyond, in the spirit of the important transnational collections on Poe such as the recently-published Translated Poe (edited by Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato, 2015) and the earlier Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities (edited by Lois Davis Vines, 1999), both of which document Poe’s influence on a diverse array of authors and literary traditions. Aiming for a broad geographic and linguistic range, this panel will build upon such studies as well as on those that urge a consideration of Poe in his own time and place, such as Strange Nation: Literary Nationalism and Cultural Conflict in the Age of Poe (J. Gerald Kennedy, 2016) and The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe (edited by Shawn Rosenheim and Stephen Rachman, 1995), to address the political dimensions interpreted from, imposed on, and derived from his work. As such, it will bring into conversation Poe’s various authorial personas: the one belonging to the world and the one rooted in the United States; the apolitical and the politicized; the aesthete and the ideologue.

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