Thursday, August 13, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe Lights Up the Ransom Center

Break out a cask of amontillado and let the pale sherry flow. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe are in for a treat this year, the bicentennial of the American poet, critic and inventor of the detective story’s birth.

The Harry Ransom Center, the humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, is commemorating the two-hundreth birthday of Poe with the exhibition From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.

The exhibition is based upon the extensive holdings of the Ransom Center and the Harrison Institute/ Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, and includes additional materials from the Free Library of Philadelphia and other museums.

The exhibition is on display at the Ransom Center Sept. 8, 2009, through Jan. 4, 2010.

As noted on the Ransom Center’s website, the exhibit features “manuscripts, books, art and personal effects, many of them displayed for the first time, documenting Poe's career as a writer, his romantic relationships and mysterious death, the decline and rehabilitation of his literary reputation and his profound influence on mystery and detective fiction and other genres.”

For the weak and weary on midnights dreary, this exhibit should strengthen, energize, and part the clouds of doom. It might even bring a smile to Poe's ghost and make that tell-tale heart of his swell with pride. But let's not push it; the man was seriously depressed. It'd be like asking Schopenhauer to be optimistic; it ain't goin' to happen.

Question: if Poe were alive today would he take Prozac? I suspect he'd pass on the prescription, afraid it might blunt the edge of death, knife of gloom attitude his work depended upon.

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