The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston WITH PAUL LEWIS, PH.D.


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Although Eliza Poe hoped that her son would grow up loving Boston, Poe’s feelings about the place where he was born on January 19, 1809, were more complex. After a brief period here as an infant, he was raised in Richmond, Virginia, and London, England. After dropping out of the University of Virginia at the age of 18, he moved back to Boston and published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems here. Still, Poe’s advocacy of poetry for the sake of poetry led him to denounce members of the Boston literati as “Frogpondians” who used literature to convey moral and political lessons. After his presentation at the Boston Lyceum on October 16, 1845 was subjected to hostile reviews in local papers, Poe’s quarrel with Boston’s writers and editors reached a fever pitch. “The Bostonians,” he wrote, ”are very well in their way. Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good. Their Common is no common thing—and the duck-pond might answer—if its answer could be heard for the frogs. But with all these good qualities the Bostonians have no soul … The Bostonians are well-bred—as very dull persons very generally are.”

Paul Lewis is a professor of English emeritus at Boston College, a past president of the Poe Studies Association, the curator of exhibitions on literary Boston, and the neologist who coined the word “Frankenfood.” The author of Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict, Comic Effects: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Humor in Literature, and A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies: A Bedtime Book about the Coming Apocalypse, Lewis led the Boston Poems Project and edited The Citizen Poets of Boston: A Collection of Forgotten Poems, 1789-1820, for the University Press of New England. As the BOD chair of the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, Inc., Lewis worked with others to celebrate Poe in the city of his birth by having a square at the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South dedicated to Poe in 2010 and then installing a statue of Poe in it in 2014. In addition to articles and book chapters on American literature, controversial humor, and literary Boston, Lewis has published opinion, humor, and feature pieces in such places as the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, and Philadelphia Inquirer.

Start Date: 10/4/23, 1 meeting
Class Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Day of Week: Wednesday
Location: Lexington Depot, 13 Depot Square, Lexington
Instructor: Paul Lewis, Ph.D
Status: Running/Openings