Bringing to bear his expertise in the early modern emblem tradition, William E. Engel traces a series of self-reflective organizational schemes associated with baroque artifice in the work of Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. While other scholars have remarked on the influence of seventeenth-century literature on Melville and Poe, this is the first book to explore how their close readings of early modern texts influenced their decisions about compositional practice, especially as it relates to public performance and the exigencies of publication. Engel's discussion of the narrative structure and emblematic aspects of Melville's Piazza Tales and Poe's "The Raven" serve as case studies that demonstrate the authors' debt to the past. Focusing principally on the overlapping rhetorical and iconic assumptions of the Art of Memory and its relation to chiasmus, Engel avoids engaging in a simple account of what these authors read and incorporated into their own writings. Instead, through an examination of their predisposition toward an earlier model of pattern recognition, he offers fresh insight into the writers' understandings of mourning and loss, their use of allegory, and what they gained from their use of pseudonyms.
William E. Engel is the Nick B. Williams Professor of English Literature at The University of the South, in Sewanee, TN. He is the author of five books on early modern intellectual history and visual culture.
A Yankee Book Peddler Literary Essentials Title for 2013 'Engel brings an outstanding scholarly reputation in English Renaissance literature to his task, and it is just what the study of American literature needs at present: explorations of its debt to the literature of the past and its use of that past in new ways to transform American literary culture.' Bainard Cowan, University of Dallas 'Against the trend toward relating American literary works forward in time to present concerns, Engel moves backward two centuries to restore a proper context for Melville's and Poe's writing. The allusions are vast, yet precise, the interpretations at once specific and far-reaching.' Mark Bauerlein, Emory University 'In this unusual and provocative study, Professor Engel has brought into view an inventive new way to measure the important influence of the baroque, in both rhetorical and visual terms, on Melville and Poe.' Eric J. Sundquist, The Johns Hopkins University 'Engel treats formal and conceptual echoes of the seventeenth-century baroque in an exceptionally thoroughgoing and suggestive way... By showing how much Poe and Melville absorbed from the literature of seventeenth-century England, Engel advances our understanding of how these two major nineteenth-century writers fit together, as well as of how they re-created the literature that came before them.' Brian Yothers, NBOL-19 '... Engel establishes his basis for textual echoes and thematic reduplications which he unravels in convincing complexity, exploring not only images and literary devices, but also sound echoes and interlingual puns.' Modern Language Review