Thursday, August 11, 2005

The United States of Appalachia

Book cover: Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Neverending Remembrance

I recently located a reference I'd been looking for since 1999. I had read that Edgar Allen Poe championed the name "Appalachia" as a more fitting name for the United States of America. I read this on a Usenet News Group, where great information and insightful comments mingle indiscriminately with utter nonsense, so I had my doubts.

Last week, I was reading Kenneth Silverman's 1991 biography, Edgar A Poe : Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance and on page 248, I found this quote:

Because the lack of an international copyright crowded American writers out of competition and flooded America with English reprints, the issue gave a focus to Poe's thinking on literary nationalism. In 1845, the United States was still an expanding, undefined place; that year, the New-York Historical Society appointed a committee to consider whether some effort should not at last be made to give the country a "PROPER NAME." (The candidates included America, Columbia, and Appalachia, but the committee recommended Allegania.) In most minds the country remained as much unformed culturally as geographically. Calls for a distinctively American literature had been issued since just after the American Revolution; taken up by Emerson and others, they had converged with romantic ideals of the preciousness of self-development in individuals and nations alike, becoming philosophically grounded and passionate.

Poe had of course long challenged this demand for a literature not only by Americans but also about and for them, and often reasserted his cosmopolitan view that not one nation but the world itself was the stage for the "literary histrio."

Silverman gives this reference for the search for a "PROPER NAME": Broadway Journal, I (March 22, 1845), 186, and I (April 4, 1845), 223.

So, it seems that rechristening the United States "Appalachia" was not one of Poe's ideas, but I did find the reference in a Poe biography. I am very impressed with Silverman's book. It's an excellent mix of biography, history, and literary criticism, well-paced and readable.

1 comment:

星爺Frank said...
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