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Sunday
Jun132010

They Dug Him Up Once Already

Michael Kammen's new book, Digging Up the Dead: A Notable History of American Reburials, includes Edgar Allan Poe, who was moved from the back of his Westminster cemetery to the front.  I've asked this before, but I'll ask it again: if they've already dug him up once, what's the big deal about doing it again (especially when the reason to do so now would better reflect literary history)?  In the grand scheme of things, Philly's just a little further north of the current burial spot.  I'm just asking.

Short review here of Kammen's book.

I'm gratified to see this sentence in Kammen's Introduction:

Regional pride is at stake in the burials of Revolutionary rifleman Daniel Morgan and bank robber Jesse James; local pride with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe (Baltimore, where he lived, and died versus Philadelphia, where he wrote his most famous works)

I wonder if the Poe Wars are mentioned in Kammen's book.  But more importantly, I'm gratified to see (at least in part) that the author recognizes the connection between Poe's work and Philadelphia.  In several pieces on Poe from last couple of years, I've seen similar wording about Philly's central importance in Poe's literary career.  While this may be old news to scholars, it has certainly not been known by most of the general public.  Stories about Poe in newspapers and magazines usually only mentioned Baltimore, to such an extent that most readers thought Poe was born, raised and spent most of his life there.  Our Poe Wars have been a corrective to this and it is not unusual now to see references to all the cities in which Poe lived (although I do notice that Philly has gained the most prominence) in popular press pieces about him. 

However, I can't be too smug about this development if only because Kammen sets up the opposition as "Baltimore, where he lived" versus "Philadelphia, where he wrote most of his famous works."  Actually, Poe lived in Bmore only briefly (he lived in Philly, Richmond and New York for longer periods).  The true conflict in Kammen's terms should be "Batlimore, where he died" vs. "Philly, when he wrote etc."  Because the only reason Poe is buried in Bmore is because he dropped dead there. 

More on Kammen's book when I get a copy of it. 

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