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Poe and the Subversion of American Literature

Satire, Fantasy, Critique
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Robert T. Tally Jr.
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Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2014In Poe and the Subversion of American Literature, Robert T. Tally Jr. argues that Edgar Allan Poe is best understood, not merely as a talented artist or canny magazinist, but primarily as a practical joker who employs satire and fantasy to poke fun at an emergent nationalist discourse circulating in the United States. Poe's satirical and fantastic mode, on display even in his apparently serious short stories and literary criticism, undermines the earnest attempts to establish a distinctively national literature in the nineteenth century. In retrospect, Poe's work also subtly subverts the tenets of an institutionalized American Studies in the twentieth century. Tally interprets Poe's life and works in light of his own social milieu and in relation to the disciplinary field of American literary studies, finding Poe to be neither the poète maudit of popular mythology nor the representative American writer revealed by recent scholarship. Rather, Poe is an untimely figure whose work ultimately makes a mockery of those who would seek to contain it. Drawing upon Gilles Deleuze's distinction between nomad thought and state philosophy, Tally argues that Poe's varied literary and critical writings represent an alternative to American literature. Through his satirical critique of U.S. national culture and his otherworldly projection of a postnational space of the imagination, Poe establishes a subterranean, nomadic, and altogether worldly literary practice.
Acknowledgements Introduction: A Poetics of Descent 1. Subterranean Noises Undercurrents of American Thought The Man of the Street The Diddler's Grin 2. A Nomad in a Land of Settlers The Early Poe: Nomadic Peripety The Mature Poe: Unsettling Movement The Late Poe: Extravagant Trajectories 3. Points of No Return The Return of Personal Narrative "Of my country and of my family I have little to say" Irreversible Descent Uncharted Territories 4. The Nightmare of the Unknowable The Legitimate Sources of Terror Terror as Anti-Epistemic Unfathomability 5. Captivating the Reader Perverse Designs "To be appreciated you must be read" The Apparatus of Capture 6. The Perverse Originality of Literature Proper True Originality Generic Ambiguities 7. The Cosmopolitan's Uncanny Duplicity At Sea in the City The Doppelgänger's Mirror Image 8. Extra Moenia Flammantia Mundi: Satire, Fantasy, and the Critic's Laughter Phantasy Pieces The Laugh of Edgar Allan Poe Conclusion: Premature Burials BibliographyIndex

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