Edgar Allan Poe: American Masters

Master of the macabre: the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe: American Masters

Join us for a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, a true master of the macabre. Watch American Masters’ “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” via Passport here.

After his death, writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) became a global icon of modern literature and a pop culture brand. Best known for his Gothic horror tales and narrative poem “The Raven,” Poe’s stories are the basis of countless films and TV episodes, and have inspired even more. Creating the detective fiction genre with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), Poe wrote over 100 short stories and poems altogether, beginning with “Tamerlane and Other Poems” (1827), his first published work.

Now “American Masters” draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery to tell the real story of the notorious author in a new documentary, “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive.” Written and directed by Eric Stange, the film stars Tony Award-winning actor Denis O’Hare and is narrated by two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner.

The new documentary explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories – a caricature that stems, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to re-invent American literature, Poe was an influential – and brutally honest – literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.

An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.

“The mystery around Poe’s death is the least of it,” said filmmaker Eric Stange. “The real question at the heart of this film is why Edgar Allan Poe continues to be one of the most popular writers in the history of Western literature – and one of the most misunderstood.”

Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” combines dramatized re-enactments with O’Hare of key moments in Poe’s life, readings from Poe’s works and interviews with modern writers, filmmakers and others to reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.

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