Poe's Short Stories

Poe's Short Stories Edgar Allan Poe in American culture

Long after Edgar Allan Poe's status as an editor and literary critic became a lesser-known facet of his career, Poe's stories and poems have managed to remain significant to American pop culture, from echoes in later novels to film, music, and occasionally even football. In the early nineteenth century, he brought the conventions of German Gothic fiction to the American short story tradition, which had only just begun to take hold with such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington. After his death, his horror stories, which looked into the darker recesses of the human psyche, combined with his abrupt, tragic, and somewhat peculiar death combined to give him a reputation that extended from the literary realm to the forefront of pop culture.

In literature, Poe was most famous for stories such as "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," as well as for his supernatural narrative poem "The Raven." However, just as influential were his stories of the detective C. Auguste Dupin, who uses a combination of logic and understanding of the criminal mind to solve crimes in stories such as "The Purloined Letter" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Dupin was an early model for later super-detectives such as Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books and Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's novels. Poe also contributed to early science fiction in lesser-known stories such as "The Balloon-Hoax."

Outside of the written form, Poe's short stories have given inspiration to numerous films, television shows, and musical pieces. Notably, in the 1960s, Roger Corman directed several movies starring Vincent Price that were based on various stories, including "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Masque of the Red Death." On television, The Simpsons often refers to Poe's writings; in particular, the 1990 "Treehouse of Horror" episode features James Earl Jones guest-starring in an adaptation of "The Raven." In music, artists from genres as diverse as pop music and heavy metal have quoted or otherwise referenced Poe in their lyrics.

Poe's influence extends beyond the creative media to a number of surprising areas in pop culture. Not only has he had postal stamps printed in his honor, but the Baltimore Ravens, a football team in the NFL, took its name from the eponymous Poe poem. In 1996, a list of seventeen potential team names was whittled down to three: the Marauders, the Americans, and the Ravens. The team managers opened the selection to the public, who chose "Ravens" in honor of the author who is buried in their city.

Poe himself continues to be a figure in the American imagination, as his various addictions and tumultuous life and death have given him the reputation of a suffering genius, and he has often been fictionalized in various media forms. Because his narratives were often written in the first person and because his writing speaks to the undercurrent of violence that lies in American history, readers from an entirely different century are able to identify with Poe's stories and, by proxy, with Poe himself. The author's identity has come to be associated with a form of brooding and questioning of the mind and soul that still has relevance in the modern day.