Cartoon Poe vs. Super Poe

A series of assumptions, errors, guesses, wrong turns, and proclamations since Edgar Allan Poe became a public figure have accrued in a kind of “case law” buildup of Poe the man that underlies all critical thought about him and his writing. He is above all racist, an alcoholic, and a financial and social failure, in that order. It is no longer fashionable to be “queer Poe” or a Poe tied to the landscape somehow; post-humanism is the new thing. The cycle must turn; the handle must crank, else what are we to do?

The outlandish hunger tales like “Tell-Tale Heart” are taken as illuminating and damning psychographs, while Poe’s image is manipulated for fun and profit, even by the Poe Museum itself, in an eternal damnation of replication. The fallen Poe of his final years is definitive of POE himself; it is what he Is in the mind, what we are permitted to discuss; the young and hopeful, seriously ambitious intellectual setting out to interpret Everything, quite ignored. Yet this is what I define as the real Poe. “Hans Phaall” is a breakthrough written in his mid-twenties. He will try to top it with Pym and explain it all with “Used Up,” but “Phaall” is a young and questing work without a hint of failure.

Yet he is used, misused, and abused, not least in the assumption that he cannot pull off a successful hoax (of the three we discuss) because they are so damnably crude in appearance. The jokes are corny, at least those that can be deciphered at the surface, the allusions obscure and peskily, recurrently self-referential. What is the point, really?

Cartoon Poe writing hoaxes Super Poe writing hoaxes
Depressed, possibly suicidal Ecstatic
Incompetent at fiction Demonstrating metafictional skills
Sloppy Calculating
Untrue to his own poetic principles Hoax principles are undeclared and encrypted

Change the assumption; recalibrate your estimation. Poe is no fool, and the implication that he cannot manage a hoax is laughable. He has simply outsmarted the professor-critic, who declares that which he cannot solve to be insoluble ipso facto. But after all these years Poe’s very text — the text itself — actively mocks those who cannot interpret it. By crafting “insoluble” hoaxes, Poe has ensured for himself a kind of eternal life — so long as he has a reader, enlightened or otherwise.

Super Poe bends fiction in upon itself with his mind alone, and ProfCrit has finally, finally recognized that Poe may be after a Super Reader to interpret his hoaxes.