Museum News


The Challenge of Evaluating Poe’s, Eureka: A Prose Poem


 

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Was Poe Searching for Gold in Eureka: A Prose Poem?

In my last column, I discussed the reasons that I decided not to focus my entire Master’s Thesis research on Poe’s Eureka: A Prose Poem. That conclusion became obvious to me after I examined all of the clues that were available to me at the beginning of my investigation. First of all, I found that Eureka was extremely technical and too difficult to interpret. It appeared that when Poe was warning critics not to evaluate it during his lifetime, he was also sending out a cautionary note to me that I should not take on such a big project before I was ready. Poe’s culminating work is extremely challenging because it spans several genres and,thus, cannot be compared to any other poetic, literary, historic, scientific, or metaphysical works; however, it is a combination of all of the aforementioned genres. I was left with the impression, that was also concluded by other researchers, that  it is too literary to be considered a scientific work and too scientific to be considered a literary work. However, Poe described his book as a scientific treatise on the origins and future of the Universe. In Eureka, he writes extensively on the history of science, integrates much of what was already known about science in the nineteenth century, and proposed several original scientific and metaphysical theories. Therefore, I decided to focus my research inquiry on Poe and Science, even though the book also spans several other genres.

At the 2013 Positively Poe Conference at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia (see my last Poe and Science Blog), I explained that when miners found gold in the nineteenth century, they needed to assay it against a known gold standard to determine its value. I noted that, perhaps, Poe was inspired to name his book after the exclamation that the miners in his lifetime shouted after they struck gold. Their joyous exclamation, “Eureka” means, “I have found it!”  He wrote that his book was the most profound work about science “since Newton’s discovery of gravity.”  Poe may have believed that he had would become rich and even more famous as a renown science writer after he published his book. Unfortunately, there were few other critics in his lifetime who agreed with him, since there weren’t any established standards to determine the value of his work. Unfortunately, the book is no easier to evaluate today than it was when Poe wrote it 1848. It has been speculated, though, that Poe was defying critics to attempt to write an evaluation of a book that could not be compared to anything else. Consequently rather than attempting to deal with the challenges of evaluating

Consequently rather than attempting to deal with the challenges of evaluating Eureka directly, I believed that a more manageable project would be to  determine the extent to which Poe’s final work might have been influenced by the literary, historical, philosophic, and scientific contexts of the nineteenth century. I was also curious to find out if Poe’s interest in science was first initiated in Eureka, or whether he expressed an interest in other scientific topics in his earlier works of poetry, journalism, and fiction.

I concluded that my project would focus on Poe and Science. I would start with examining his poetry and technical training, and then how he wrote about the science as a journalist and a writer of  science-based fiction. It was my hypothesis that if I attempted to examine what Poe wrote about related to science prior to Eureka, it might help me to understand what he was trying to express in Eureka: A Prose Poem. Ultimately, looking at the ways that Poe wrote about science in each of his writing styles, and then discussing the ideas that he was attempting to express about science became the way I organized and reported my research. It also helped me to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of Eureka than I had after my initial reading of Poe’s most enigmatic book. In my future columns on Poe and Science, I will reveal what I discovered about Poe and Eureka. I hope you will join me and share your reactions about this topic.

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 Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education at Temple University (1973), a Master’s of Arts in English Literature at VCU (2015), and  a Doctorate in Education at Virginia Tech in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and is the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member, volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write to Murray by leaving a Comment or at [email protected]

Murray Ellison at the Richmond Poe Museum




Final Schedule for Positively Poe Conference


Here is the final schedule for the first Positively Poe Conference to be held next week, June 24-26 at the University of Virginia. Click here or write conference organizer Alexandra Urakova for more information.

PPConferencePROGRAM BOOK




There is Still Time to Register for Positively Poe Conference


This June 24-26, the Poe Museum and the UVA Small Special Collections Library will host the first-ever Positively Poe Conference devoted to Poe’s life affirming and benefitial contributions to art, literature, culture, and science. This unique conference promises to change the way you think about Poe’s life and work. An international group of the leading Poe scholars, artists, and scientists will converge on the University of Virginia for a new kind of conference to be held in the shadow of some of the very sites that influenced Poe’s greatest works. Conferees will attend a dinner only a short distance from Poe’s dorm room and a picnic in the very Ragged Mountains that appear in Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” A wide array of speakers will explore previously overlooked aspects of America’s most famous and most misunderstood author. The response so far has been great, and people from around the world have already registered. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of this groundbreaking event in Poe studies. You can register for the conference online today. For more information, contact the conference organizer Alexandra Urakova at [email protected] A tentative schedule appears below.

Monday, June 24, 2013

7:00 Dinner – Rotunda Room.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium

9:00 Session One – The Boy Next Door
Chair – Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University

A. Richard Kopley
“Edgar Allan Poe, the Boy Next Door”
B. Chris Semtner
“A Young Girl’s Recollections of Edgar Allan Poe”
C. Jerome McGann,
“Verse and Reverse. Poe and the Poetry of Codependence”.

10:30 Break

11:00 Session Two – Literary Circles, Friends and Followers
Chair – Jerome McGann, University of Virginia

A. Philip Phillips
“Yankee Neal and Edgar Poe: The Fruits of a Literary Friendship”
B. John Gruesser
“Poe, Whitman, and Melville in New York and Beyond”
C. Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato
“‘Excellent system(s) of positive translation(s)’: Why Poe’s Translators Have Neither Been Invisible nor Ephemeral”

12:30 Lunch break

1:30 Session Three – Poe and Art
Chair – Stephen Railton, University of Virginia

A. Scott Peeples
“Poe in Love”
B. Sonya Isaak
“When Music Affects Us to Tears”: Poe’s Silent Music – Divine Aspiration and Lasting Inspiration
C. Anne Margaret Daniel
“Bob Dylan: ‘like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story’”

3:00 Break

3:30 Session Four: Collecting Poe

Susan Tane and Harry Lee Poe

4:30 Break

6:00 Picnic – The Ragged Mountain (Beth Sweeney’s readers’ theater)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All paper sessions in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium

9:00 Session One – The Comic Side of Poe
Chair – Richard Kopley, Penn State University

A. Barbara Cantalupo
“‘a little China man having a large stomach’: Poe’s Homely Details in ‘The Devil in the Belfry’
B. Alexandra Urakova
“Shreds and patches”: Poe, Fashion, and The Godey’s Lady’s Book
C. Elina Absalyamova
“A Comic Poe: European Success Story”

10:30 Break

11:00 Session Two – Tales: Rethinking the Gothic
Chair – Bill Engel, University of the South

A. Bonnie Shannon McMullen
“The ‘sob from the . . .ebony bed’: The Reanimation of the Gothic Tale in ‘Ligeia’”
B. Susan Beth Sweeney
“Positive Images: Poe and the Daguerreotype”
C. William E. Engel
“Jaunty dialogs with the non-human: a Closer Look at Dogs in the Works of E.A. Poe”

12:30 Lunch break

1:30 Session Three – Poe and Ethics
Chair – Margarida Vale de Gato, University of Lisboa

A. Gero Guttzeit,
“‘Constructive Power’: Poe’s Mythology and Ethics of Authorship”
B. Katherine Rose Keenan,
“You Can’t Escape Yourself”: Poe’s Use of Moral Doppelgangers”
C. Shawn McAvoy and Heather Myrick Stocker
“Selective Symbolism: Poe’s Romantic Theology”

3:00 Break

3.30 Session Four – Poetry, Science, and Eureka
Panel Chair – Harry Lee Poe, Union University

A. Stephen Rachman
“From “Al Aaraaf” to the Universe of Stars: Poe, the Arabesque, and Cosmology”
B. René van Slooten
“Religion, Science and Philosophy in Eureka”
C. Murray Ellison
“Judging Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka after the Author’s Death”

5:00 Close




Register Today for the First Positively Poe Conference


Think Poe was just a tortured soul who only wrote scary stories? Think again. Poe invented the detective story, helped develop the science fiction genre, and made many other positive contributions to science and culture. On June 24-26, 2013 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Poe Museum and the UVA Small Special Collections Library will co-sponsor the first Positively Poe Conference devoted to an exploration of how Poe made the world a better place. Be a part of this first-ever Positively Poe Conference by registering today. Here is more information about this exciting event:

Poe’s reputation as a tortured, tragic figure, melancholic poet and the “master of the macabre” has fueled his popularity for over a century and a half, while debunking stereotypes and myths associated with that reputation has always been an essential part of Poe criticism. Going beyond the debunking of the popular caricature, we would like to discover the “positive” side of Poe’s life and work. Just as his life had its ups and downs, his writing, too, reflects a wide range of experience, not exclusively the dark and dismal. We therefore invite papers on a broad diversity of subjects with a focus on the life-affirming and vital elements in Poe’s work. Papers may cover (but are not limited by) such themes as:

Poe and ethics (his ideas of love, friendship, manners)
Poe and art (aesthetic ideas in literature and criticism)
Science, philosophy, Eureka
Social and family life
Literary circles, friends and followers
Success stories of Poe’s poems and tales at home and abroad.

If you are interested in attending, just complete this registration form PositivelyPoeConferenceRegistrationForm and mail it to the address on the form or register online here.

For more information, contact Alexandra Urakova at [email protected]




Conference to Celebrate Brighter Side of Poe


Below is a call for papers for a new kind of Poe conference coming next summer to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Positively Poe
Charlottesville, Virginia • June 24-26, 2013

Sponsored by The Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia
at the Small Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia

CALL FOR PAPERS

Poe’s reputation as a tortured, tragic figure, melancholic poet and the “master of the macabre” has fueled his popularity for over a century and a half, while debunking stereotypes and myths associated with that reputation has always been an essential part of Poe criticism. Going beyond the debunking of the popular caricature, we would like to discover the “positive” side of Poe’s life and work. Just as his life had its ups and downs, his writing, too, reflects a wide range of experience, not exclusively the dark and dismal. We therefore invite papers on a broad diversity of subjects with a focus on the life-affirming and vital elements in Poe’s work. Papers may cover (but are not limited by) such themes as:

Poe and ethics (his ideas of love, friendship, manners)
Poe and art (aesthetic ideas in literature and criticism)
Science, philosophy, Eureka
Social and family life
Literary circles, friends and followers
Success stories of Poe’s poems and tales at home and abroad.

Deadline for submission of proposals is October 31, 2012.
Please submit proposals to Alexandra Urakova at [email protected]

Organized by Harry Poe [email protected] 731-661-5404 and
Alexandra Urakova [email protected]