On Sunday October 7th, the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore hosted their Annual Edgar Allan Poe Commemorative Program. This event branched between two locations. Beginning at Westminster Burying Ground at the grave of Poe and his wife Virginia for a short informal ceremony to honor Poe’s memory and then moving over to the University of Maryland Biopark for a literary lecture relating to Poe’s writing.
This year’s lecture was given by Bob Hodges on “Form in the Objects of Messieurs Poe and James”. Jeffery A. Savoye, the secretary and treasurer of the Poe Society gave a lovely introduction to Mr. Hodges and explained to the audience how the proceedings would play out. While the title of Mr. Hodges’ lecture is complex and foreboding the talk itself was not. He began his lecture by explaining what formalist criticism is. He explained that when we think of this type of literary criticism we should not think “formal”ist but “form”alist, that the purpose of this particular literary criticism is to look at and relate forms of writing (types of story lines and literary structures) over multiple works from one or multiple authors. He also gave a brief history of literary criticism for those in the audience with no background in literary studies.
The main argument of this lecture was that the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James, though coming from very different places in society, were more closely linked by the time period in which they were both writing and their readers than either writer wished to admit during their life-times. He made this claim through the story structure of the Faustian Bargain, the deal with the devil. That both Poe and James used this story structure to appeal to their readership. Despite Poe coming from poverty and writing for the masses and James’ birth into wealth and his writing for the aristocracy, they both shared many thematic and structural similarities in their prose pieces.
Bob Hodges’ lecture was very effective and raised many constructive questions within the crowd. After the lecture was over there was a questionnaire session and refreshments. Apart from the Commemorative Program there was also an entire festival full of food, games, tours and Edgar Allan Poe themed activities. Events like these are not only informative but also engaging and entertaining. I personally look forward to attending again next year and I hope you all consider doing the same.
For more information of the Poe Society and their events you can visit their website at http://www.eapoe.org.