Edgar Allan Poe & Science
with John Tresch
Monday, November 22, 2021 • Monday, November 29, 2021 • Monday, December 6, 2021
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST
Apply or nominate here.
Deadline: October 28.
You’ve likely read or heard “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Maybe you know the legend of their author, Edgar Allan Poe, and his brief, tortured, and scandal-ridden life: He was an orphan who married his fourteen-year-old cousin and died at age forty, a victim of alcohol, poverty, and mental distress. But there was another side of him that is rarely remembered. In this master class, we’ll look at Poe and his obsession with science. He was one of the country’s first science reporters: new discoveries, inventions, and ideas run through his work. But during his lifetime, no national institutions existed to separate reliable knowledge from lies and reckless speculation; he made the most of this uncertainty by writing his own compelling hoaxes, as well as exposing scientific frauds. Edgar Allan Poe’s works of horror, imagination, and psychological insight reveal the challenges faced by scientists and artists in the hostile, overcrowded, and chaotic media environment of nineteenth-century America—a period with a lot of similarities to today.
This is a three-session master class. In the first two sessions, teachers learn from the master. In the third, participants have a rare and valuable opportunity to exchange ideas with other brilliant teachers. Participants are assigned a small amount of homework to prepare for each session.
John Tresch is professor of History of Art, Science and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute at the University of London. Before that, he taught for over a decade at the University of Pennsylvania. He studies the interrelated histories of science, anthropology, philosophy, and the arts. His book, The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon, won the History of Science Society’s Pfizer Award for Outstanding Book in 2013. His next book, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science, published in summer 2021, examines Poe’s technical obsessions in light of the unruly culture of popular science in the early nineteenth century.