Faculty talk will focus on Poe

James Crane

James Crane

The writings of Edgar Allan Poe will be the subject of St. Scholastica's next faculty colloquium, at 3:40 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 in Tower Hall room 4119.

James Crane, associate professor in the Department of English, will discuss "Furnishing Masculinity: Poe and the Pitfalls of Interior Design." The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

Crane will examine Edgar Allan Poe's satiric commentary "The Philosophy of Furniture," which appeared in the May 1840 issue of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. The article criticizes Americans for a collective failure to adhere to standards of good taste, and argues that a well-decorated room - like an effective poem or short story - must be consciously organized in order to achieve a unified, composite effect out of disparate elements.

Crane will discuss how Poe's commentary helps to explain the descriptions of menacing home furnishings in Poe's short stories. For example, why are Usher and his friend, the narrator of "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), afraid of the furniture in Roderick Usher's ancestral home? When the narrator describes Usher's exaggerated sensitivity to interior decoration, Poe is staging the aesthetic and emotional effects of furniture on the gothic tale's distressed narrator.

The workshop is part of a faculty colloquium series now in its tenth year. The series provides visibility to diverse research projects by faculty members in St. Scholastica's School of Arts and Letters.