The A. B. C… of Autography: Edgar Allan Poe and Archive Trouble of Antebellum American Literature Open Access

Wood, Seth Richard (2011)

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This dissertation is a reading of a much neglected but wildly compelling work of Edgar
Allan Poe's in which he analyzes the handwriting of over one hundred of his
contemporaries-from fellow poets, prose writers and magazinists to Supreme Court
Justices and one former President-while also furnishing exemplary specimens of the
handwriting in the shape of a collection of facsimile signatures or autographs. Given that
this dissertation is the first comprehensive study of Poe's Autography, its first principal
aim is to build a context in which this highly eccentric work can be appreciated: to
illustrate its relation to the unique literary climate of antebellum America, in which it
took shape, and to explore its resonance with the rest of Poe's idiosyncratic corpus.
While the extraordinary richness and complexity of Autography makes the way to meet
this aim relatively clear, it also introduces an element of mystery into this first concerted
effort to give Autography its due. If, as this dissertation argues, Autography is profoundly
resonant with the rest of Poe's corpus and the historical moment in which it was
published, then why would it have gone for so long unnoticed and unread? To the end,
not of definitively answering this question, but of addressing it, the second principal aim
of this dissertation will be to make the long tradition of Autography's being of little to no
interest to American literary history a meaningful aspect of the interpretations of it given
here, while their first impulse is to break with this tradition. The idea is that this particular
forgotten thing should be remembered first as a forgotten thing if and when it is going to
have a future.

Table of Contents


A Character-Sketch of Edgar Allan Poe's Autography

Part I:

The Purloined Letter of Autography

The Autography of "The Purloined Letter"

Part II:
The Hoax which is Not One:
Poe's Jeu d'Esprit and the Literary Circle of Autography

Part III:
The Signature-Architecture of Autography

About this Dissertation

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