Annual Edgar Allan Poe Commemorative Lecture (2013)


Since 1923, the Poe Society has sponsored an annual commemorative lecture on the life and/or works of Edgar Allan Poe, presented by a noted Poe scholar. This lecture is always held on the first Sunday in October, more-or-less coinciding with the anniversary of Poe’s death. Prior to this event, it is traditional for members of the Poe Society to gather at Poe’s grave, placing flowers on the monument in a brief and informal ceremony to honor Poe’s memory.

These Poe Society events are free and open to the public.

Sunday, October 6, 2013:

1:15 p.m. - Tribute to Poe at the Poet’s Grave

Location: Westminster Burying Ground, at the corner of Fayette and Greene Streets
(This is a very brief and informal ceremony. Anyone wishing to bring flowers to be placed on Poe’s grave is welcome to do so.)


2:00 p.m. - 91rst Commemorative Edgar Allan Poe Lecture

Location: The E. A. Poe Room of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral, second floor

Welcome, and Introduction of the Speaker and Respondents

Address: “ ‘And Discoveries Still Farther South’: Arthur Gordon Pym and Nascent Literary Southernness” by Shawn Miller (Francis Marion University).

Abstract of the lecture: “ ‘And Discoveries Still Farther South’: Arthur Gordon Pym and Nascent Literary Southernness”

Since about 1960, one enduring line of inquiry into Poe’s only complete long fiction The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) insists on its cryptic reference to Poe’s American South, and specifically on its expression of white supremacy’s neuroses. In one early commentator’s view, for instance, the book’s “subject is slavery; and its scene, however disguised, is the section of America which was to destroy itself defending that institution” (Fiedler 378). That explains, presumably, why the climate of Pym’s Antarctic resembles Mississippi’s but for the odd precipitation. Less trivial is the explanation such a reading offers of the highly symbolized interplay of blackness and whiteness on Tsalal and beyond and of Pym’s observations of the treacherous Tsalalians, beings evidently loosed from the white southerner’s nightmares to walk the earth. Yet this focus on Tsalal and what follows (a scant third of the book) tends to fling other features of Pym’s voyage to the margins, and seems incapable of embracing the entire text. In service of a more fleshed-out account of Pym’s southernness, I mean to work beyond the biographical approaches and limited historicism of prior efforts in order to highlight how Pym prefigures later southern narrative. Specifically, while Pym exhibits many tropes of the archetypal American frontier adventure story as prototyped in Cooper (and later perfected by Melville and Clemens), it nevertheless resists assimilation into a national narrative of progress, refusing to do the cultural work its apparent genre demands. It is not uncommon to meet this exact combination in southern fiction of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries-most notably, perhaps, in Cormac McCarthy — and even more common to meet a like skepticism bordering on hostility toward the mythology by which America explains itself. Reading Pym in view of this understanding illuminates both Poe’s novel and the trajectory of imaginative literature in the South, where something important seems to have been afoot decades before the great cataclysm long thought to have inspired its critical turn.

(Work Cited: Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Criterion, 1960.)

Response/Discussion and Questions from the audience.


3:00 p.m. - Reception

Location: The E. A. Poe Room of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral, second floor. Punch and cookies will be available. This reception is co-sponsored by the Division of English and Communications Design of the University of Baltimore.



The Pratt Library requires the following disclaimer for events held in its facilities: “Use of library meeting space does not constitute endorsement of this organization, this program or its content by the Enoch Pratt Free Library.”




[S:1 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Poe Society - Annual Commemorative Lecture