Pop Culture

Edgar Allan Poe in Pop Culture

An artwork inspired by “The Raven”

Just as Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional characters obsessed over objects like a vulture’s eye, a black cat or death itself, there’s something about his poems and short stories that we can’t ignore. Perhaps it’s because his kind of horror is something not easily forgotten, for it can disturb the subconscious, thrill us to the bone, and reveal the darkest tendencies of the human mind.

Due in large part to the way Poe is portrayed in popular culture, the madman genius tormented by his own personal struggles, the poet himself conveys a similar intrigue as the characters he writes about. Whether this reputation has been exaggerated and romanticized over time, many fans retain this specific image of him, and this undoubtedly enhances the controversial nature of his life.

Much of the speculation over Poe’s sanity first surfaced when his professional rival, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, published a widely printed obituary and a biography that depicted the poet as a chronically drunk madman. Griswold’s slanders have since been renounced by Poe’s family and friends, but those publications significantly tarnished the late author’s reputation for the next several decades.

A more important factor in pop culture’s personification of Poe is his stories’ point of view. He always wrote in the first person perspective, and this made it seem like the author was the one experiencing the grisly tales.

The Challenge of Channeling Poe

The adaptations of many of Poe’s poems and short stories face significant challenges.  For one, many of his stories are too short to be turned into full-length movies. This is why film versions are mixed with newly invented storylines, and some productions only allude to Poe’s works. Throwing in new twists to his tales have upset fans through the years, but Director Roger Corman rose to fame because of his repute for translating a number of Poe’s stories into the big screen. Although his adaptations of The Tomb of Ligeia, Tales of Terror, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death and The Haunted Palace, all helped cement Corman’s career, they only contained echoes of Poe’s works rather than being accurate depictions.

The late poet’s voice, and ability to tell his own particular brand of frightening and disturbing narratives, remains his and his alone.

Sources:

http://www.nerds-feather.com/2012/10/we-rank-em-roger-corman-vincent-price.html

http://education.seattlepi.com/influence-edgar-allan-poe-american-culture-5573.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/pop-cultures-undying-edgar-allan-poe-obsession/256417/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe_in_popular_culture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rufus_Wilmot_Griswold
Photo Credits:
Photo By Bill Strain via StockPholio.com

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