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Resources for the High School English Teacher in Teaching Edgar Allen Poe

This bibliography is a collection of resources that can be used by high school English teachers to support their understanding, and the teaching of Edgar Allan Poe’s life and literature. Along with several sources specifically geared towards teachers with lesson plans and teaching resources, there are also teaching applications described with each source. I purposely chose five very different sources to provide an educator with a large scope of websites, literature, and biographies of Poe.

Hayes, Kevin J, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Suggested in the Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide as an important piece of work on Poe, this companion is a collection of fourteen scholarly essays that gives a sufficient introduction to Poe studies and to the life of Poe. As it was published in 2002, this is a newer collection of essays on Poe and offers some new research and perspective on his work and life. The collection begins by giving a detailed and factual timeline of important events in Poe’s life, something that can be used in the classroom. While each chapter/essay is aimed at giving new insight on the life and work of Poe, like his poetry and invention of science fiction, I found two to be particularly helpful in the high school English classroom: “Poe and the Gothic Tradition,” and “Poe and Popular Culture.” These two essays would be of some interest to the high school English teacher as they deal with issues commonly taught with Poe’s literature: gothic elements and Poe’s correlation with popular culture. At the end of the companion, there is a comprehensive list containing a bibliography and references that may be helpful to English teachers and curious students seeking more information on Poe.

Logan, Lisa. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide. Boston: Beford/St.Martins, 2008. 103-104. Web. 30 July 2013.

This guide was written largely to college professors in teaching the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but I would argue that it is just as helpful in aiding instruction at the high school level as well. This guide gives information on approaches to teach his literature, such as focusing on the craft and skill of Poe, and to make sure students don’t confuse Poe’s life with his work. While students do need to know biographical information, this guides states that the focus should be on his work and the impact of his work on genres like symbolic fantasy and the detective story. The classroom issues stated by Bedford explain that while Poe was an early American author, he didn’t write about the historical events of his time period; therefore, we read Poe recursively and this puts us in danger of overlooking his larger contributions. It states that one way to overcome this is to, “to consider the selections as fictional meditations on art, the imagination, or the subconscious” (104). Next is a selection of connections to other authors and other texts, such as Hawthorne and Emerson. This can be help teachers make the connections between early American texts clear.  Perhaps the most helpful section of this guide includes a section of discussion questions that can be used with any Poe text used in the high school setting. Lastly, there is a brief biography of this that educators can read to better understand the life and work of Poe.

“Teachers.” The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe. n.p., 2010. Web. 30 July 2013.

This page on The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe’s website is directed for the use of secondary teachers. It contains true information about Poe’s life, scholarly information on the literary impact Poe has made, and detailed information about the style of Poe’s writing in works like “The Cask of Amontillado.” The section that contains the selection of readings can be especially helpful to high school teachers and students interested in more detailed work on Poe’s life including important biographies, collection of works (essays, reviews, literature) and works of illustration. There is an opportunity for educators to send in their information to receive a free Poe activity packet with lesson plans and activities to supplement reading. The website also gives information on how a teacher or administrator could schedule an educational tour of the actual museum. For example, they can take the “Tell Tall Heart” Mock Trial which, “After a performance of ‘The Tell Tale Heart,’ students are given evidence in a ‘trial’ against the protagonist and are asked to determine if s/he is innocent by reason of insanity or guilty as charged.” For classroom applications, teachers can use this resource page to further their own reading and understanding of Poe and his work, or they may choose to use this page to suggest further reading for advanced students interested in knowing more about Poe. I find the interactive tours to be a good idea in sparking the interest of students and allowing them to further understand the impact of Poe’s work.

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. n.p., 23 May 2013. Web. 30 July 2013.

This digital database has a vast amount of resources for educators and they do not need to seek special permission for the use of these materials in the school setting. Under the “Writings of Edgar Allan Poe” heading there are three links to massive collections of work by Poe that can be used to supplement some of the more mainstream literature taught in the classroom.  Next, the largest section contained on this site includes information on the life of Poe, such as The Poe Log, and Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, all of which are free e-texts and easily accessible to an educator for use in the classroom. Also included on the website is information about Poe in Baltimore and information regarding the publications from the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. For the high school English teacher, this database was chosen because it has a large amount of information about Poe contained on one webpage. The information will help aid with classroom instruction, like the important biographies and collections of work, while all of the information is very easily accessed through this website. Also, this site explains that it takes time to make sure everything they publish and post is factual and error free, important in teaching Poe because there is a lot of information about his life and work that is indeed incorrect. This is a reliable place to get factual information.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1941. Web. 30 July 2013.

This critical biography was suggested reading in the Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide and according to The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, this biography is the least biased account of Poe’s life published to date. The author of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website states that while it is now dated, it is an impressive articulation of what we know about Poe’s life today. As an e-text, this biography is free to the public and easily accessible to high school English teachers and students. It explains in the preface that Quinn tries to tell the story of Poe the American, not the exotic as others have painted him. The text is very similar to The Poe Log as it tells a narrative version of Poe’s life, along with primary source information like newspaper articles and letters to and from Poe to reveal the truth about his life, challenges, and achievements. At the end of the text there is an appendix that contains small essays on information discussed in the critical biography, like Poe’s birthplace location and his last journey before his death. Important to the educator is that Quinn strives to use primary sources as his evidence, not the subjective opinions of others. In the classroom, accounts of his life can be compared to Quinn’s work as students work through the subjective and objective information about Poe’s life.

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