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Abstracts for PSA Papers at the 2007 MLA Convention
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POE AND TRANSLATION

“The Detective as Reader: Poe’s Translation of the ‘Urban Mysteries’ Novel”
Sara Hackenberg, San Francisco State University

“Poe in Exile: Transpo(e)sitions in 1930s Hollywood”
Lauren Curtright, University of Minnesota

“From Piano to Pen:
Poe’s Aesthetic Translation and its Impact on the American Short Story.”
Aaron McClendon, Saint Louis University

POE AND IDEOLOGY
Poe and Ideological Anamorphosis:
Sentimentalism and Masculine Violence in “The Black Cat”
Sean J. Kelly, SUNY Buffalo

Ravel and "The Raven": The Realization of an Inherited Aesthetic in Bolero
Michael Lanford, Western Carolina University

“Unwinnable Wars, Unspeakable Fears: Why Poe Wrote ‘The Man That Was Used Up’”
 J. Gerald Kennedy, Louisiana State Universit
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POE AND TRANSLATION

“The Detective as Reader: Poe’s Translation of the ‘Urban Mysteries’ Novel”
Sara Hackenberg, San Francisco State University

The early 1840s saw two watershed literary events in the development of the mystery narrative: between 1841-45, Edgar Allan Poe published three tales of urban ratiocination that introduced a particularly modern, literary detective character to Anglo-American readers, and in 1842, Eugène Sue’s debut “urban mysteries” novel, Les Mystères de Paris, sparked a widespread international trend in serialized urban fiction.

On the surface, the sprawling urban mysteries serial and Poe’s taut detective tales seem very different.  The urban mysteries narrative offered readers a seemingly never-ending stream of characters involved in multiple, intricately intersecting plot lines, while Poe’s tales focus directly on the extraordinary abilities of C. Auguste Dupin to resolve single, central, organizing puzzles.  Moreover, the urban mysteries serial was an immediate, international literary hit: Sue’s novel generated a plethora of translations, adaptations, and new versions across Europe and America. Poe’s Dupin stories, conversely, are notorious for their isolation; they exist in celebrated solitude, notably preceding the eventual rise of the popular detective tale by several decades.

I argue, however, that despite their differences in structure and reception, Poe’s Dupin stories and the urban mysteries novel are actually very close in narrative strategy and thematic concerns. Both the urban mysteries novel and Poe’s stories, for instance, depend on a gothic, superhuman spectating and detecting hero, and each importantly imagines mystery as that which arises from the tension between visual clues and deceptive surfaces. Poe’s Dupin stories, I suggest, can be read as both a translation and a distillation of the urban mysteries serial.

Poe, in fact, was deeply interested in Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris. He reviewed the first 1843 American edition of the novel and used this review as an occasion to display his own distinct philosophy of translation. Declaring in this review that “there is one point (never yet, I believe, noticed) which, obviously, should be considered in translation,” Poe asserts that the translator of a given text “should so render the original that the version should impress the people for whom it is intended, just as the original impresses the people for whom it (the original) is intended.” Poe suggests that by “pride[ing] themselves less upon literality and more upon dexterity at paraphrase,” translators can produce texts that “may be made to convey to a foreigner a juster [sic] conception of an original than could the original itself.”

In this rather startling sentence, which so casually upends the hierarchy of “original” text to its translated “copy” and so clearly argues for the locality of meaning, Poe ostensibly refers to the linguistic translation of idiomatic phrases.  However, it is significant that Poe muses thusly about translation in a review of a notoriously popular—and relentlessly translated and reinvented—novel.  When combined with his statement about a work’s impression on its audience, Poe seems to be indirectly implying that the point of the translation of a text such as Sue’s urban mystery lies not in the faithful relation of a particular artist’s point of view and unique use of language, but rather in the dissemination of compelling master-narratives with which many diverse groups of readers might be able to locally identify.

Poe’s own translation of the urban mysteries serial importantly transforms and recasts the “master narrative” of the urban mysteries genre by reducing and merging the urban mysteries’ entwined representations of watching, reading, and solving.  In his stories, Poe predicts the conflation of reading and solving so central to the formal detective tale, in which the act of successful reading in itself often becomes the final step in the solution of problems. Poe replaces the urban mysteries novel’s attention to the “exposure” of large social problems with attention to smaller, more singular or individual difficulties, and he locates his tale’s socially transformative energies solely within the purview of the visual and interpretive powers of the individual reader.

Indeed, the Dupin stories are notably about reading.  Poe’s three tales of urban detection increasingly equate perceptive visual reading—especially of the “clues” of identity so central to mysteries in general—with the actual act of literate, textual decoding.  In doing so, the stories not only highlight the nineteenth-century’s common rhetorical slippage between reading texts and “reading” people, but they also contribute to nineteenth-century cultural alignment of literacy with social power.

“Poe in Exile: Transpo(e)sitions in 1930s Hollywood”
Lauren Curtright, University of Minnesota

Few, if any, of the nearly seven dozen film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing are loyal to the basic features (including plot, characters, narration, and dialogue) of their source material.  Robert Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) exemplify the mutations that Poe’s fiction underwent in its transference from print to cinema in the twentieth century.  However, in spite of their seeming to overhaul Poe’s stories, these films— both created by European Jewish émigrés in Hollywood around the time that the Nazi Party seized power in Germany—actually draw substantially from Poe’s ideas about racial difference in antebellum America to challenge Nazi, as well as American, racism and anti-Semitism in the 1930s.

As typical Gothic narratives, Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) and “The Black Cat” (1843) expose the paradoxical structure of nineteenth-century European and American racism: its dependence, at once, on anxieties that contacts with ‘other’ races by Euro-Americans could lead to the latter’s degeneration, and on policies of subordination and exploitation (namely, slavery and imperialism) that necessitated such contacts.  Poe’s stories, I argue, undermine this ideology by locating the catalysts of degeneration (or what the narrator of “The Black Cat” calls “the primitive impulses of the human heart”) within the Euro-American subject.

In this paper, I analyze the ways in which “simultaneity” structures Ulmer’s and Florey’s translations of Poe’s racial critique. I borrow from Noah Isenberg (“Perennial Detour: The Cinema of Edgar G. Ulmer and the Experience of Exile,” 2004), who interprets The Black Cat through Edward Said’s lens onto the ‘contrapuntal’ quality of the vision of artists living in exile.  Isenberg argues that, “the legacy of the past comes into conversation with, or is filtered through, the present,” in Ulmer’s film.  This “legacy” includes the “undigested horrors of WWI” and the aesthetic conventions of German literary Expressionism and Weimar cinema, to which Ulmer repeatedly alludes while simultaneously “engaging the cultural fears and fantasies of his new country.”

I extend Isenberg’s analysis of The Black Cat and apply Said’s concept of counterpoint to Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, which critics have called a re-make of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), due to its set design, chiaroscuro effects, and tyrannical figure, Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi).  While Isenberg attends specifically to Ulmer’s response to Depression-era America’s “fears and fantasies” of homoeroticism and sadomasochism in The Black Cat’s relationship between Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) and Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff), I focus on the ways in which The Black Cat and Murders in the Rue Morgue transpose mourning of the loss of a democratic Germany to fascism to critiques of American whiteness.  Ulmer and Florey, I argue, resuscitate Poe as a ‘master’ not only of the horror genre but also at explicating the horrors of Euro-American racism.

“From Piano to Pen: Poe’s Aesthetic Translation and its Impact on the American Short Story.”
Aaron McClendon, Saint Louis University

Published in The Opal of 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Chapter of Suggestions” contains one of his more important aesthetic theories.  In the tenth paragraph of “Chapter,” Poe wrote the following: “The great variety of melodious expression which is given out from the keys of a piano, might be made, in proper hands, the basis of an excellent fairy-tale.”  After his remark, Poe compared the sonic resonance created by pressing and holding down a single piano key to the emotions of joy and sorrow.  What is so noteworthy about Poe’s idea is how closely it corresponds to his theory of the tale.  Indeed, three years earlier, in his review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, Poe had argued that the power of the tale lay in its ability to impart to a reader “a certain single effect.”  For Poe, the tale was an impressionistic medium.  It was largely about articulating sensations and emotions.  This idea is precisely what connected the tale to music in Poe’s mind; for music, as it was theorized in the nineteenth-century, was thought to do much the same thing.  Of course, it has been common to examine the impact which music has had on Poe’s poetics and his theory of poetics.  This attention, however, while clearly justified, has overshadowed the fact that Poe’s ideas about music also influenced the generic contours of his tales and the American short story more generally.  It will therefore be the task of this paper to show how Poe’s idea in “Chapter”—about sonic to tale translation—impacted the generic tendencies of the short story.

To accomplish this, I will trace some of the theories about music, which were in circulation during Poe’s time.  I will do this to illustrate how music, the emotions, and sensations in general, were frequently yoked together.  In this brief discussion I will mention the theories of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Wilhelm Wackenroder, John Sullivan Dwight, and others.  I will also rely on more contemporary theorists of music such as Theodor Adorno, Lydia Goehr, and Martha Nussbaum to make this connection.  After doing this I will present some of the more prominent treatments of Poe’s development of the short story.  Here I will engage the work of Andrew Levy, Douglass Tallack, and Arthur Voss.  With these backgrounds established, I will turn to Poe’s written work.  I will, of course, rely on Poe’s “Chapter” and his review of Tales.  But Poe’s “Marginalia,” “The Poetic Principle,” and tales such as “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia,” “The Man of the Crowd,” and others will also be employed.  While Poe’s contribution to the development of the tale and short story have been justly connected to the market-place and periodical culture, the rather substantial impact which Poe’s musical aesthetics had on the genre has not received its warranted attention.  This presentation aims to open doors in that direction.  

POE AND IDEOLOGY

Poe and Ideological Anamorphosis: Sentimentalism and Masculine Violence in “The Black Cat”
Sean J. Kelly, SUNY Buffalo

In The Plague of Fantasies, Slavoj Zizek observes that we are able to discern the constitutive contradictions upon which ideological structures are built only when we approach a text through “anamorphic reading” (75).  That is, we must approach the text—or see how the text itself approaches culture at large—from a direction that exposes structural inconsistencies in ideological beliefs.  I will argue that Poe’s tale, “The Black Cat,” performs such a reading by radically de-centering the subject of the sentimental narrative, specifically, by detaching the figure of the Law from both Christian expectations of benevolent justice and from Enlightenment assumptions about human dignity and selfhood. 

In my essay, I suggest that selfhood is problematized in Poe’s tale in two fundamental ways.  First, man, “fashioned in the image of High God” (285), is revealed to be little more than the deployment of the rhetoric of reason.  As a rhetorical performance, selfhood in Poe’s narrator is characterized by the inconsistencies and doublings of language, and the constitutive gaps that mark the subject’s position in relation to knowledge. These inconsistencies and blind-spots lead to a particular desire in the narrator for an ideal reader who can “perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects” (280).  This desire for (self)mastery, however, is both undermined and driven by the self-destructive energy of the “spirit of PERVERSENESS” (282).  By examining Poe’s concept of perversion alongside the Kantian notion of radical evil and Freud’s theory of repetition, my paper demonstrates that Poe’s tale of animal mutilation and murder exposes the violent and often-irrational inner logic inherent to the sentimental belief in moral transcendence.   

I will situate my reading of “The Black Cat” within the context of some of the recent critical scholarship on the issue of nineteenth-century sentimentalism and the problem of death, violence, and morality including works by Jonathan Elmer and Gilliam Brown.  If death is glorified in the moral perspective of such sentimental novels as Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin or in Foster’s The Coquette, such glorification obscures the internal logic that supports violence as a route to sympathetic understanding.  As the reader learns the lesson of the sentimental novel, he or she also participates in the inherently violent economy of the genre.  Richardson’s Clarissa, for example, emphasizes the “triumph” of feminine virtue over sexual violence, even imagining the source of feminine dignity through the implicitly violent trope of “interior exposure” (Van Sant 61).  We might, therefore, consider that each of these characters in both the British and the American sentimentalist traditions take a place in line of interchangeable sacrificial victims, their bodies reminiscent of the body of the Sadean victim, which is destined to die again and again.  It is in “The Black Cat” that Poe pulls back more layers of the ideology of sentimentalism precisely by dehumanizing the victim, and revealing the internal workings of the mechanisms of masculine violence.  Ultimately, I will demonstrate that the rhetoric of “The Black Cat” collapses the distance between the Law—as a transcendent Other that would allow the reader of sentimentalist fiction to maintain his or her belief in justice and human dignity—and the narrator’s own “perverse impulses.”  The Law is revealed to be, in the end, inextricable, even indistinguishable from the narrator’s own psychotic motivations.

Ravel and "The Raven": The Realization of an Inherited Aesthetic in Bolero
Michael Lanford, Western Carolina University

Throughout his life, Maurice Ravel was captivated by the act of creation outlined in Poe's The Philosophy of Composition, proclaiming that "my teacher in composition was Edgar Allan Poe, because of his analysis of his wonderful poem 'The Raven.' Poe taught me that art is a perfect balance between pure intellect and emotion."  Oddly, despite such declarations, no systematic evaluation of The Philosophy of Composition and its effect on Ravel's own compositional modus operandi has been conducted to date.  Bolero, one of the most emotionally effective and popular orchestral showcases ever penned, has defied traditional methods of musical analysis due to its melodic, harmonic and rhythmic repetitiveness.  Hence, it has been unfairly neglected by serious academic scholarship.  This paper proposes a new reading of Bolero based on the aesthetic precepts outlined in Edgar Allan Poe's Philosophy of Composition.  Once claimed by Ravel to be "an experiment in a very special and limited direction," Bolero is actually modeled after "The Raven" on several levels.  Both works rely on repetition to highlight key motives and ideas, incorporate elements of the "grotesque," juxtapose structural unity with ineffability in literary and musical language, and contain surprising similarities in overall structure.  Moreover, through such an analysis, Bolero transcends its composer's designation as a mere "experiment" and is placed in context as a truly emblematic piece of music from a composer who was at once a product of French artistic culture, a provocateur, a lifelong devotee of Poe.  

“Unwinnable Wars, Unspeakable Fears:  Why Poe Wrote ‘The Man That Was Used Up’”
 J. Gerald Kennedy, Louisiana State University.

In 1839 Poe composed "The Man That Was Used Up," his first magazine tale concerned explicitly with American culture.  But what prompted him at this juncture to abandon "the foreign subject" and to produce a caricature of the Indian fighter as national hero?  Surely the nationalistic tenor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine invited Poe's turn to topical, political satire. But by reexamining what Philadelphians were reading in local newspapers during the spring and summer of 1839, we gain a clearer sense of the horizon of influence that surrounded the writing of this tale.  Three interrelated dramas impinged on Poe's composition process: political maneuvering in advance of the election of 1840; a desperate ploy to end the costly and interminable Second Seminole War; and a series of Philadelphia lectures by George Catlin just prior to taking a "national treasure"--his Indian Gallery of paintings--to Europe. These unfolding stories moved Poe to produce his critique of Indian removal and the ethnocentric ideology of extermination that it excited.

 

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