Tag Archive | Poe Week

The Scream

“The Tell-Tale Heart”: One of Poe’s most iconic stories.

I first read it when I was 23: an overworked and tired graduate student. One foggy Wednesday evening in October of that year—in fact, immediately after I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” in preparation for class—my younger sister asked me to accompany her on a walk around the neighborhood. I gladly took this opportunity for some exercise, and I let my mind wander as we walked. It wandered directly to the story I had just read. When we were about a half a mile from home and walking on the sidewalk of a well-traveled suburban street, I heard faintly from behind, “thump-thump.” I attributed this to my reverie about the story, and I decided to ignore it. “Thump-thump” I heard, slightly louder. “Thump-thump.” I was beginning to wonder what this was, and I was getting somewhat nervous. “Thump-thump,” the beating insisted, “thump-thump” louder still. Finally, the “thump-thump” reached a crescendo, and I could no longer feign comfort. So, I did what I normally do when faced with situations such as this: I screamed. Yes, it was a bloodcurdling scream: my trademark. Needless to say, my sister was quite alarmed. As I finished screaming and reopened my eyes, I looked forward, and I saw the runner, whose steps continued “thump-thump, thump-thump” ever more quietly as he ran ahead of us and he disappeared into the fog.

The moral of this story is that Poe’s writing can really get under one’s skin!

And now, without further ado, I present to you “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Poe book

My reflection on a great Poe teacher

I am honored to be able to say that most of what I know about the work of Edgar Allan Poe, I learned from Dr. Merrill Maguire Skaggs. To be honest, prior to taking her doctoral course on Poe and Emerson in the fall of 2003, I was not particularly interested in Poe. As my perspicacious advisor at Drew University, Dr. Bill Rogers, suspected, I registered for Dr. Skaggs’ course mainly because it fit into my schedule! After all, I was a Ph.D. student, working at two off-campus jobs (adjuncting at Seton Hall University and working as the youth minister at my parish); I needed to minimize commuting time and maximize my productivity at each of my locations. But was I ever in for a wonderful surprise when I walked into class on the first day!

I quickly learned (after being enlightened by Dr. Skaggs’ quick 5-minute introduction to the course) that I was in the presence of one of the most brilliant and versatile literary critics I would ever meet. Little did I know, at that time, that her guidance on my writing and academic presentation skills would also prove invaluable to me—and I make use of and share her advice to this day.

Each of us in the course was assigned to make one presentation and write two papers. Because I was interested in learning more about Dr. Skaggs’ work, I signed up to give a presentation on what I considered the most intriguing of the options. In 1981, Dr. Skaggs had written an article titled “Poe’s Longing for a Bicameral Mind,” which appeared in The Southern Quarterly in 1981. More than 20 years after the article’s publication, the Department of Homeland Security had asked Dr. Skaggs for a copy of the article and interviewed her about her analysis of Poe’s brilliant detective, C. Auguste Dupin. In her article, Dr. Skaggs had analyzed Dupin from the perspective of Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind. My presentation was to focus on why the Department of Homeland Security, in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks (and just a few months before our course began), would be interested in this particular article about Poe. I can honestly say that this was one of the most challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding assignments I have ever completed.

Throughout the semester, we did pay close attention to Poe’s horror stories. But Dr. Skaggs also guided us through Poe’s detective stories, poetry, and non-fictional prose with great care. This course that I discovered solely because I was seeking convenience turned out to be one of the most memorable, efficacious, and mind-expanding courses I ever took. Thank you, Dr. Skaggs. Requiescat in pace.

Merrill Maguire Skaggs, Ph.D.

I’m ravin’ about this Halloween decoration!

Upon entering CVS today, I encountered this pack of Halloween window decorations.

Raven window decor

When I inspected it, I realized that one of the window decorations in the package features not only the likeness of a raven but also part of the text of “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe!

If you love Poe as much as I do, hie thee to your local CVS to procure a Poe-tastic window hanging!

Poe Week

Autumn is undoubtedly here; a damp chill hangs in the evening air. What’s on my reading list for today? Something by Edgar Allan Poe, of course!

To get us all in the proper horrific spirit for the season, I hereby decree that this is Edgar Allan Poe Week! What does that mean? A “Poest” from me every day. (Sorry, I know that was terrible.)

Prepare for a week of Gothic fun!

Poe eye