Prof. Bill Engel has published in the debut, first edition of The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe from Oxford University Press. A brief abstract from his piece, entitled Poe’s Cultural Inheritance: Literary Touchstones and the Cultivation of Erudition, is included below:
"Poe displays deep if selective knowledge of ancient writers, Renaissance and Enlightenment literature, and continental aesthetics. His readings of the classics ranged widely, but he was as likely to have learned about the ancient world from anthologies and encyclopedias as from primary texts. Typical of the magazine culture of the nineteenth century, many of Poe’s allusions and references that sound biblical in fact are either Shakespearean or commonplace expressions of the day. His notions of aesthetics, initially drawn from Schlegel, Byron, and Coleridge, branched out to embrace esoteric and Neoplatonic considerations that he developed in his writings with characteristic originality, including metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls), Renaissance Hermeticism (prominently on display in Usher’s library), and Arabian cosmology (especially in “Al Aaraaf” and “Israfel”). Moving beyond mere source hunting, this essay examines the principal ways—and the ends to which—Poe incorporated key aspects of the Western cultural tradition into his works."
Dr. Engel serves as the Nick B. Williams Professor of English at the University of the South.
More on Dr. Engel's life and work can be found here.