“Poe & Blackness”; a Poe Studies Association Panel
ALA meeting in San Francisco, 26 May 2016
Blackness has been a topic of steady critical concern in Poe studies at least since Harry Levin’s groundbreaking The Power of Blackness (1958). More recent critics have posited a metaphysics of race, where blackness is a coded means of discussing slavery—a topic that Poe (cognizant of his readership both above and below the Mason-Dixon line) never raises directly. Descriptions of black people range from Jupiter (the loyal, manumitted slave in “The Gold-Bug”), to the benign “negro valet,” Pompey (appearing in several tales), to the mutinous sailor in Pym as well as the murderous South Sea natives. Blackness finds its avatar in the titular figure of “The Raven”; and its expression of abject horror in “MS. Found in a Bottle” (“a black sweltering desert of ebony”), symbolically paralleled in the “gigantic clock of ebony” in “The Masque of the Red Death.” Papers are invited on blackness in Poe’s oeuvre that offer close readings of specific poems, tales, reviews and/or miscellaneous writings, so as to project new avenues for further inquiry.
To submit a proposal, send title and abstract of no more than 250 words to William Engel (firstname.lastname@example.org); in the subject line please put: “PSA panel 2016.” The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2016 (panelists will be notified shortly thereafter).