Poe and the Visual Arts

By (author) Barbara Cantalupo

Paperback - £19.95

Publication date:

15 November 2014

Length of book:

216 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271063102

Although Edgar Allan Poe is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, there is an unrecognized and even forgotten side to the writer. He was a self-declared lover of beauty who “from childhood’s hour . . . [had] not seen / As others saw.” Poe and the Visual Arts is the first comprehensive study of how Poe’s work relates to the visual culture of his time. It reveals his “deep worship of all beauty,” which resounded in his earliest writing and never entirely faded, despite the demands of his commercial writing career. Barbara Cantalupo examines the ways in which Poe integrated visual art into sketches, tales, and literary criticism, paying close attention to the sculptures and paintings he saw in books, magazines, and museums while living in Philadelphia and New York from 1838 until his death in 1849. She argues that Poe’s sensitivity to visual media gave his writing a distinctive “graphicality” and shows how, despite his association with the macabre, his enduring love of beauty and knowledge of the visual arts richly informed his corpus.

“Although Poe’s aesthetics and interest in art have long drawn scholarly attention, Barbara Cantalupo’s Poe and the Visual Arts is the first study to approach the subject comprehensively. She convincingly re-creates the art world in which Poe moved in the 1830s and 1840s, and her deep research reveals Poe’s exposure to and knowledge of a wide gallery of artists and paintings; more important, she illuminates how this engagement affected his own art criticism and his use of art in stories such as ‘Ligeia,’ ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ ‘Landor’s Cottage,’ and many others. Poe and the Visual Arts tackles an exciting topic, and Cantalupo’s firm grasp of it results in a notable contribution to the study of Poe and nineteenth-century American culture.”

—Matthew C. Brennan, Indiana State University