Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Anthony S. Magistrale
This project began in Dr. Anthony Magistrale’s graduate seminar focused on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It is the result of our common interests in Poe’s textual canon, and furthermore in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century illustrative works that were inspired by it. After performing significant research, the conclusion was reached that despite the extensive collection of visual works, catalogued by Burton Pollin, little work had been done that actually explored the relationship between these works and the text. I found myself asking what role this canon of illustrations played in shaping the public understanding of and reception towards the Poe tales that are so widely known today.
“A Par/ergon for Poe: Arthur Rackham and the Fin de Siècle Illustrators” is intended as an introduction for further study on the extent of influence that nineteenth- and twentieth- century artists had in promoting and supplementing Poe’s work. Given that the earliest prominent illustrator of the canon, Édouard Manet, began illustrating “The Raven” at the request of Charles Baudelaire, Poe’s first translator and the man who communicated Poe’s work to the world, the fin de siècle illustrations were produced concurrently to Poe’s burgeoning popularity. In the first chapter, I engage in a literary history of the fin de siècle artistic movements and major figures and their exposure to Poe, including Manet, Gustave Dore, and the Symbolists, Aubrey Beardsley, Harry Clarke, and the Decadents, and finally, Arthur Rackham and the Modernists. I track Poe’s influence after his death, exploring the question of why such prominent artists were interested in representing Poe’s work, specifically, in the first place. Subsequently, this thesis also discovers what elements of their work and aesthetics could be seen as representative of Poe’s. Then, using Jacques Derrida’s ekphrastic theory of the parergon/ergon supplementary relationship, I deconstruct the textual “lack” in Poe’s tales as that which sets up an availability to the illustration. Through this “lack,” the supplemental illustration can insert itself and exert its own power, altering the way the text is received based on the style and time of its reception.
My second chapter turns to Poe’s tales and the subsequent illustrations by Rackham. I place particular emphasis on texts and images of “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” with supplementary references to “Hop-Frog,” “Ligeia,” “The Domain of Arnheim,” and “Landor’s Cottage.” I use textual analysis and visual case studies to demonstrate the way in which the illustrations fill the “lack” present in their respective texts, and build out precisely where this lack can be seen. I explore the way the images both mimic and change the reader’s relationship with the tales and characters, altering the reader’s response and thus, the overarching canonical interpretation. By doing this, my project demonstrates how strong of an impact Arthur Rackham and the fin de siècle illustrators made on the public perception of and reception to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.
Number of Pages
Slayton, Jessica M., "A Par/ergon For Poe: Arthur Rackham And The Fin De Siècle Illustrators" (2018). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 866.
Available for download on Monday, March 30, 2020