Text: Richard A. Fusco, “Preface,” Poe and the Perfectablility of Man (1982), pp. iii-iv (This material is protected by copyright)


[page iii:]


In this essay the reader will encounter longer quotations than is the wont. My reasons for including these passages are two-fold. First, I make exhaustive use of obscure philosophic works. In most universities philosophy courses would ignore the names of Turgot, Priestley, Price, Condorcet and de Staël. Thus, since I can assume the justifiable ignorance of my readers, I must educate them with a detailed text. Second, given their effect on Poe, perfectionist arguments ought not to be summarized. Poe called them “eloquent madness.” Consequently, quotations permit the reader to empathize more closely with Poe’s admiration.

I would like to thank Professor Benjamin Franklin Fisher IV for his patience, his encouragement, his meticulousness, a decade of friendship, and — most of all — the benefit of his consummate Poe scholarship. I am most appreciative to Professor Craig Werner, who lopped off the dead limbs to my argument so that the tree could survive. Professor Jeffrey Gross’s attention to detail contributed to my understanding of professional standards, both as a scholar and as a teacher. I also commend the efforts of Professor Evans Harrington, Mrs. Jessie Mae Sneed, and Mrs. Dorothy Atkinson for manipulating the bureaucracy in my favor during the final stages [page iv:] of completing this thesis.

I must make two more acknowledgments. The inspiration for this thesis arose out of the late Thomas Ollive Mabbott’s scholarship in his Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe. The clues contained in Professor Mabbott’s commentary and notes will undoubtedly spawn many a worthwhile essay on Poe during the next fifty years. I only hope that some competent scholar will someday complete Professor Mabbott’s project with commensurate quality. Finally, Poe scholars everywhere owe an enormous debt to Professor Mabbott’s wife, Maureen, who guided her late husband’s work through to publication.


Note — At the kind invitation of Jeffrey A. Savoye, I have provided my thirty-three year-old M.A. thesis (as originally submitted) to post on his excellent web site for the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. I remind readers that the text was composed at a time when word processors were not in general use, and so please tolerate the IBM Selectric typos, grammatical warts, graduate-student prose, and such. A greatly revised version of chapter one was published in “Poe and the Perfectibility of Man,” Poe Studies 19 (1986): 1-6.

R. Fusco
Philadelphia, PA
June 23, 2015



[S:0 - PPM82, 1982] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Poe and the Perfectability of Man (R. A. Fusco) (Preface)