illustrated portrait of American author of gothic fiction Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

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How did Edgar Allan Poe's work reflect white American culture? How can I make an argument about this?

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Part of the point of this question is to make you apply some version of what critics call "critical race theory" or "whiteness theory" to Poe. In other words, the point here isn't just reading Poe and understanding him, but understanding a particular theoretical perspective in literary studies which claims that every aspect of American life and literature is dominated by race and ethnicity, expressing forms of white privilege.

One approach you might take is focusing on the relationship of the police to the characters in the stories. For example, even the insane narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" has a fairly polite and positive relationship with the policemen that race theorists would argue is grounded in their shared whiteness. In many of Poe's other stories, the narrators, even if outsiders in others ways, share in various other forms of white privilege. In what way would those relationships have been different if the narrators were black?

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