Museum News

April 24 Poe and Other 19th Century Writers at VCU

Murray’s Bio:

Dr. Murray Ellison “retired” a few years ago after enjoying more than a thirty year career as a special education teacher, school principal, and a special education director for several school districts in Virginia. During his last ten full-time working years, he served as the Virginia State Director of Community Corrections Programs for the Virginia Department of Correctional Education. Since then, he has continued to be an active editor for the International Journal of Correctional Education. In 2012, he began pursuing a slow but thorough graduate study of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction at VCU. At present, he is working on his MA thesis on Edgar Allan Poe and Nineteenth-Century Science, which he is hoping to defend in the fall of 2015. He is also presently serving as a volunteer tour guide at the Poe Museum in Richmond and a literature teacher at the Lifelong Learning Center of Chesterfield.

Title: “Edgar Allan Poe and Nineteenth-Century Science: The Art of the Science Hoax.”
Panel on Nineteenth-Century Literature by Four VCU Masters’ of Arts Candidates
Date: Friday, April 24, 2015 at 11:45 a.m. in Hibbs Hall, Room 402—next to the Cabel VCU Library
The Author: Edgar A. Poe grew up in Richmond in the early nineteenth century and took his first full-time job in 1835 as a writer and editor for the Richmond-based Southern Literary Messenger.

Abstract: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) lived at the perfect time to observe and to write about several of the most dramatic technological developments recorded in history. In 1898, renowned scientist Sir Alfred Russell Wallace called the “marvelous inventions and discoveries” of the previous one hundred years, “immensely superior to anything that had been developed up until that time.” Within a few decades, the introduction of new Industrial Age technologies such as electricity, telegraphic communications, railroads, photography, balloon-travel, astronomy, and high-speed printing presses, dramatically altered the lifestyles of the American public in ways that few could ever have anticipated.
While employed as an editor and writer at the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe worked to increase its circulation from about 500 to over 3500 paid subscribers and helped make it one of the most important literary journals in America. In 1837, he moved on to write for several of the other important newspapers in America (in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston). Most readers are familiar with his classic poems like, “The Raven” and Anabelle Lee; and his chilling works of fiction, like, “The Tell-Tale-Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” However, fewer are familiar with the important works he produced about science as a journalist.
This workshop focuses on the ways that Poe’s early career journalistic article for the Southern Literary Messenger, “Maelzel’s Automated Chess Player,” reflected the uncertainties of science during the Industrial Age. Poe uncovered the hidden secrets of the “automated” chess player when it toured Richmond, and broke down the illusion that Maelzel had been trying to create with as much skill as Poe later used to create his own fictional hoaxes. He also concluded, through his journalistic investigations, that the public could be deceived by almost any spectacular false notion supported by circumstantial facts. As his career advanced, Poe also became known as the master hoaxer of his generation— both for his non-fiction and fictional narratives. This topic has increased relevance today because many modern science historians and literary scholars have concluded that they could learn more about nineteenth-century culture and science by reading works by authors like Poe, than by scrutinizing the works of professional scientists of that time-period.
Contact Murray at [email protected] for comments.

VCU Students Show New Film at the Poe Museum

Students have long had a fascination with Edgar Poe. Every year the Poe Museum receives numerous calls and emails from students writing papers on their favorite author. Less frequently, the Museum hears from students working on visual art, dance, or film projects honoring Poe. Now a group of Virginia Commonwealth University students is combining dance, music, visual art, and film in a project that has already been two years in the making. At 8:30 P.M. during the September 27 Unhappy Hour, Poe Museum visitors will be the first to preview this new short film about Edgar Allan Poe by Christine Stoddard and David Fuchs, who won a VCUarts Undergraduate Research Grant in 2010 to produce the project. Entitled “The Persistence of Poe,” the twenty-two minute documentary will explore the influence Poe’s works have had on Richmond writers and artists of today.

According to the film’s official website, “The whole style of the film is done with a collage feel because Poe led such a patchwork existence. Through its use of live action, animation, writing, narration, music, dance, and theatre, the film demonstrates the range, power, and ability of interdisciplinary art. Cut-out animation is superimposed over photographs of present-day locations concerning Poe; animation sequences break up some of the live-action scenes. Interpretative readings of select Poe works that allude to or were written in Richmond break up the film’s biographical elements. Combined animation and live action recordings of dancing to his poetry accompany these readings. Coverage on how Poe still affects Richmond in the modern day would be essential, as well.”

Please join us on September 27 as we see this exciting new film and encourage these promising young filmmakers. The screening will be preceded by our regularly scheduled September Unhappy Hour featuring live music by Goldrush. Admission to the Unhappy Hour and film screening is by optional $5 donation. A cash bar will be available. Overflow parking is available one block south of the Poe Museum at the Virginia Holocaust Museum at 20th and Cary Streets.