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A New Poe Museum Talk

Black Cats & REDRUM

The Horrors of Intemperance from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King

As part of our Summer Sunday Reading Series the Poe Museum presents a new lecture on the influence of Poe’s intemperance narratives on the horror author, Stephen King. This lecture will be presented by Dr. David Pratt, Ph.D on September 9th, 2018 in the museum’s Enchanted Garden at 2 p.m. Here’s what Dr. Pratt has to say about his upcoming lecture:

“Stephen King often includes direct references to, even quotes from, canonical writers in his stories and novels. It’s no surprise to find Edgar Allan Poe chief among the authors referenced in The Shining (1977), but King’s specific choice to quote “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842) suggests a more than superficial similarity between the two macabre tales.

King wrote The Shining during a time in which American culture and public policy were becoming less forgiving of heavy drinking men like King himself, and the height of Poe’s career likewise coincided with an early peak in temperance activism. Though Poe engaged the conventions of temperance literature most directly in stories like “The Black Cat,” King tellingly chooses to reference “The Masque of the Red Death” for his own tale about an out-of-control drinker threatening the lives of his family.

By the mid-1970s, Americans largely agreed that alcoholism is a disease, more like the “Red Death” of its namesake tale than the “fiend intemperance” of “The Black Cat.” At the same time, however, the sodden protagonists of both “The Black Cat” and The Shining are similarly to blame for the destruction of their families in ways that recall no literary tradition so much as that of mid-nineteenth century temperance literature.

This talk will explore how The Shining builds upon Poe’s earlier use of dark temperance narrative conventions to adapt those conventions for the “new temperance” era of the late twentieth century.” – Dr. David Pratt, Ph.D

David Pratt is a freelance writer and instructor in the VCU Honors College. He completed his Ph.D. in American Studies at William & Mary, where he researched the relationship between the social history of American alcohol use and public policy and the cultural history of heavy drinking in popular culture media.

We look forward to seeing you at this great talk!

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