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The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe    by Scott Peeples Amazon.com order for
Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe
by Scott Peeples
Order:  USA  Can
Camden House, 2007 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Perhaps few authors are more significant to the development of the American short story than Edgar Allan Poe. Certainly fewer authors are better known. Although frequently but unfortunately too closely associated with all those low-budget horror movies featuring the magnificent actor Vincent Price (and others) during the 1960s, and having often been perennially more popular with adolescent than adult (the so-called serious and sophisticated) readers, Poe's works (including his short stories and poetry) have been regarded rather unevenly and sometimes skeptically by literary critics.

Beginning with Poe's entry into the literary marketplace in 1827 with the publication of his first book of poetry (Tamerlane and Other Poems) and ending with the posthumous publication of his last works, including Annabel Lee, critics have consistently given Poe plenty of attention (even if the publishing marketplace had not been either generous or kind to the ill-fated genius). The critical attention, however, was not always positive; fortunately, though, critics' reactions to Poe's works during the past 180 years have been lively, diversified, and unabated.

Now, in a superb book from Poe scholar Scott Peeples, readers can trace the critical history that has kept pace with millions of worldwide readers' unflagging interest in Poe's works. Beginning with an overview of the critical reactions of Poe's contemporaries and continuing during the 19th century, Peeples - in a fascinating, fact-filled study that reads something like an annotated bibliography masquerading delightfully as narrative history - shows the ways in which literary critics have attempted to explicate, analysis, and critique Poe's works (and his life). Moving into the 20th century through the highlights of psychoanalytic (especially Freudian) literary criticism to early formalism, New Criticism, and deconstruction, Peeples then goes on to show readers the ways in which social-historical critics and cultural critics have sought to fully engage the enigmatic master of the macabre, the inventor of the modern detective story, and the master of the American short story form.

Written by the same author who produced the most highly recommended Edgar Allan Poe Revisited (New York: Twayne, 1998), The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe is the perfect addition to any Poe fan's or student's or teacher's bookshelf. Erudite and entertaining, Afterlife is an important and useful addition to the studies of America's most well-known and most misunderstood author. Moreover, for anyone beginning any serious study of Poe's works in the academic environment, Afterlife is the indispensable first stop. Donít miss it!

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