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Emma Bradford Graduate Lecture: “Alternative Dynasties in the Court Scenes of Edgar Allan Poe and Ben Jonson”
February 14 @ 3:00 pm
The first of our Graduate Lecture Series presentations for the 2023-2024 cycle.
“In his tale “Hop-Frog,” Edgar Allan Poe presents a thoughtless, repressive, and violent court as an allegory for contemporary American politicians and literary elites. The story depicts the abuse that the court’s witty, enslaved jester faces at the hands of the King and his ministers to critique the ways that corrupt American leaders, and the mobs that back them, mistreat individuals — especially, individualistic writers like Poe — who do not blindly follow them. Critics have examined the political and cultural commentary that Poe offers in “Hop-Frog” and his other stories that feature court scenes. Yet, the reasons why Poe so frequently writes about court masques to voice such commentary have largely remained unexplored.
This presentation puts Poe’s tales in conversation with early modern English court masques to consider how Poe is receiving patterns of dissent that already exist within the masque. The speaker (Bradford) argues that writers like Ben Jonson and Poe stage disenfranchised but clever masque-makers in their masques to connect themselves to a dynasty of “poet laureates” that begins in Ancient Greece. Writing during periods of social and political change that precede civil war, Poe and Jonson argue that writers like themselves are better able to understand and navigate crises than government and literary elites, who have lost perspective and fail to morally guide the public.”
Talk is approved for CLE credit, food will be available.