Eternal Poe, Global Poe

As academic publishing becomes increasingly complex, many believe that single-author journals are on the decline. As newly appointed editor of Poe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation, though, Professor Emron Esplin isn’t worried because “not every author is Poe; he is just that influential on world writing.” As a poet, fiction writer, critic, and inventor of the detective genre, Poe needs no defense or justification. In my interview with Dr. Esplin this week, he mentioned that Poe is highly relevant  for the current moment because “he’s a writer of horror and terror, and we live in a time of terror. Post-9/11, we live in a state of constant paranoia.”

And it’s hard to disagree: entertainment today is full of detective stories (Sherlock, Law & Order, CIA), horror (it seems that a new scary movie lands in theaters every week), and explorations of criminal “madness” (Criminal Minds, Mindhunter). The footprint left by Poe’s work is undeniable, and that’s without even acknowledging the international effects wrought by this touchstone author.

Dr. Esplin had Poe’s worldwide reputations in mind when he was deciding whether to accept the editorial position: “I thought, if I do this it’s because there are certain things that I want to see happening in Poe Studies. One of those things that is already happening, and that I would like to see more, is an analysis of Poe as a globally influential writer.” In his own work in translation studies, Dr. Esplin found that although Poe was and is a major figure in a multiplicity of literary traditions, most Poe scholars don’t have access to a majority of “foreign” Poe scholarship because it has only been published in the source languages of these scholars. To help more scholars read Poe in a global context, Dr. Esplin is introducing a new recurring feature to the journal called “Newly Translated Poe Scholarship,” which will contain one or more influential articles about Poe that have not previously been translated into English. The first articles featured will come from Dr. Esplin’s research, which has explored Jorge Luis Borges’s writings about Poe, but future translations will include articles from France, Romania, Japan, Spain, and any other literary traditions from which he receives submissions.

As editor, Dr. Esplin has adopted a method that’s different from most academic journals. Rather than sending out a simple rejection when an article is not of a high enough quality to go out to readers, he provides specific editorial feedback to the author. “We use a mentoring model; it’s not required, but it’s something that the previous editor did that I like because it serves as actual peer review and feedback, even if the piece isn’t really ready to be sent out to readers.”

Dr. Esplin’s mentoring methods don’t end with journal submissions, though. To help him take on the work of managing the journal, he hired master’s student Chelsea Lee to work as the journal’s editorial associate. Lee enthusiastically expressed, “Working for the journal has allowed me to be exposed to the intricacies of a side of academia that is not easily simulated in a typical classroom environment. It almost feels like I get front row access to some of the newest and most interesting ideas and theoretical approaches before they are even published.” Some of Lee’s duties include close citation checks, copy editing, and selecting book reviews and scholars to write those reviews. In this position, not only is Lee adding an impressive line to her CV, she is participating in exactly the type of work she plans to do in the future as a prospective academic. As Dr. Esplin emphasized, “This is experiential learning—especially for students who want to go on to get a Ph.D.”

Despite the often melancholic and terrifying nature of Poe’s oeuvre, the future of Poe Studies is bright. Because Poe’s vast body of work easily lends itself to readings in class, gender, race, politics, psychology, and more, Poe will undoubtedly continue to be relevant not only in American literature, but on a global scale—allowing journals like Poe Studies to not only survive, but thrive.

This post was written by Morgan Lewis, Humanities Center Intern.

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