College of Liberal Arts

Department of English


J. Lasley Dameron

"Poe, Plagiarism, and American Priodicals"

Edgar Allan Poe is well known for his attacks on contemporaries (notably Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) as imitators or plagiarists, sometimes both. Yet Poe is often charged with being a culpable plagiarist himself, as Kenneth Silverman's recent biography Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance observes. Without examining current practices among writers and journalists of Poe's times, some critics have consistently accused Poe of indiscriminate borrowing. This study concentrates on selected but significant American periodicals that he had opportunity to read for the purpose of determining his reliance, if any, upon these publications. That Poe borrowed from foreign magazines and reviews has been well established, but comparatively less attention has been paid to chief American publications like the Knickerbocker Magazine, the Democratic Review, and the American Monthly (New York). An examination of these popular American journals and magazines points to a clear pattern of Poe's modus operandi--that is to say, how he utilized the writings of others in his own literary writings and criticism. Did Poe as an apprenticed reviewer plagiarize from popular American journals? The answer is "no" if one takes into consideration the journalistic practice of his times and if modern schoolboy principles of documentation are not applied. A systematic perusal of chief American journals appearing in print between mid-1835 through May 1842 strongly suggests that Poe consistently used reviews and literary essays by his American contemporary journalists as a sounding board for his own criticism. During that period, he engaged other American reviewers in critical dialogues that foreshadowed the maturation of his concept of literature in May 1842.




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