The Uncanny Doubling of Poe by Rufus Griswold

Presented as “‘Because you so perfectly understand me’: The Uncanny Doubling of Edgar Allan Poe by His Editor and Literary Executor, Rufus Griswold,” Fourth Annual International Poe Conference, New York, New York, February 2015

Abstract: In his widely republished obituary, Edgar Allan Poe’s literary executor and posthumous editor, Rufus Griswold first attempts to assassinate Poe’s character by reimagining Poe as the villain from a Gothic novel; however, by attempting to kill off the deceased Poe in this way and by trying to make sure that the dead author stays dead, Griswold cannot help participating in the logic that drives the return of the uncanny repressed. While acting as Poe’s executor and editor, Griswold goes far beyond the typical editorial function of interpreting and reiterating authorial intention, instead becoming Poe’s evil twin. Acting as Poe’s doppelgänger, Griswold substitutes his own will for Poe’s through personal impostures, perversions of Poe’s personal relationships, the alteration and forgery of Poe’s letters and manuscripts, and various other literary crimes. Combing the principles of textual theory and psychoanalysis in a close scrutiny of Griswold’s editorial practices reveals how Griswold emerges as Poe’s evil twin, an uncanny double who even in his most obvious and egregious transgressions still suggests how the editor always risks becoming an author’s doppelgänger.

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