TEACHING EDGAR A. POE IN SPAIN THROUGH ILLUSTRATED EDITIONS
The paper will present the main results offered by the Research Project “Poe On-line: Text and Image”, granted by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (HAR2015-64580-P). The project’s main goals were to promote an interdisciplinary methodology of work; to develop the first online archive on Poe’s life and works in Spanish; to translate into Spanish those works of Poe that are not yet available in this language; to develop the first online catalogue of illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe; to create online didactic resources of a high level; and to promote the knowledge of the reception that Poe’s works have had in Spain.
It must be highlighted the development of a digital catalogue to offer free access to the illustrations that, since the 19th century onwards, have accompanied some of the best editions of Poe’s works. Illustrations are a key element when dealing with the interpretation of a text and, due to this, it is necessary to develop a tool that allows us to analyze the image along with the text. Illustrators have reflected how Poe has been understood and read in every period and in every society, and their work is a first-hand resource to understand the development of this process. In this sense, it is significant to see how the first illustrators were mainly interested in the beautiful and picturesque aspects of Poe’s poetry, far away of the gothic-grotesque image that is today associated with his production and which has been chosen to illustrate more recent editions.
All that material is especially useful for teaching purposes. For most teachers and students in Spain, Poe continues to be an author who wrote weird stories under the influence of drugs and alcohol. On the contrary, a group of Spanish university professors has been trying to change this from the 1980s on. Despite this effort, the Romantic vision Baudelaire imported to Spain in the 1850s prevails. This paper proposes to analyze how and why Spanish teachers (in most high schools and universities in Spain) still teach Poe as if we were in the 19th century while a few have just started to change their approaches. And to achieve this task, the use of image is a powerful ally due to the use that Poe himself –well aware of the importance and strength of painting– made of visual descriptions. Shortly after his death in 1849, the figure of Edgar A. Poe started to evolve into an icon of popular culture; actually, the foundations for the development of this image had been already laid during his last years. If during the second half of the 19th century, the author became widely known throughout the publication of biographies, laudatory poems, pieces of literary criticism and commemorative events, 20th century popular culture found in Poe an economically profitable icon rather than a figure of intellectual interest. Visual culture has also played an important role in the transmission of Poe and his literary legacy in popular culture, as we can see in several movies and episodes in TV series produced inside and outside the US. As a result, nowadays the image of Poe is deeply rooted in Western popular culture. Bearing in mind this fact, this paper firstly aims at focusing on those artistic and communication media which have contributed to forge the popular image of Poe in Spain, and secondly to identify those reasons which may explain his solid and long-lasting relationship with popular culture and Spanish people.