College of Charleston English Professor and internationally recognized Edgar Allan Poe scholar Scott Peeples got an early screening of “The Raven,” an American thriller film inspired by Poe, which opens nationwide April 27, 2012. View Peeples’ critique.
“The Raven,” starring John Cusack as Poe, is a fictionalized account of Poe’s last days. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s works, a young Baltimore detective joins forces with Poe to stop him from making his stories a reality. The film is directed by James McTeigue.
Peeples says, “The film moved in and out of Poe’s biography and fiction in interesting ways, getting more clever toward the end. I recognized many things in the film as being close to true in Poe’s biography, but not quite true and for a fictional movie that is a good way to play it. There are also parts that are just plain fiction.”
The film portrays Poe as an American superhero, and Peeples says that Poe probably wasn’t as bold or confident as he appeared. As depicted in the film, Poe definitely had a drinking problem, but in real life, he couldn’t hold his alcohol, would get drunk very quickly, and be sick for days at a time. Clearly fictionalized, Peeples says, were the details around Poe’s death. In real life, Poe was not found close to death on a park bench (he was in a tavern) and though he died in Baltimore in 1849 he was not residing there at the time (and hadn’t for some years).
Peeples says the filmmakers were on target in showing Poe as being very egotistical and proud of his accomplishments as a writer. He also notes that Cusack did look like Poe and “did as good a job as he could recreating Poe’s character.” Pretty high praise from a leading Poe scholar.
More than 200 films and television shows are in some way based on Edgar Allan Poe, his life, and writing. Overall, Peeples says, “This film, like the others, has fallen short, I think. I wish the movie had been paced a little better and was more psychologically complex. But, it has the potential to reach a wide audience, which as a scholar, I’m glad.”
In addition to teaching, touring, and lecturing, Professor Peeples has published two books, Edgar Allan Poe Revisited (1998) and The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe (2004), which won the Patrick F. Quinn Award for the year’s outstanding book on Poe, as well as numerous articles in academic journals and anthologies. He co-edits the journal Poe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation, and from 2005 to 2011 edited the book series Literary Criticism in Perspective for Camden House Press. In 2009, he was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant in recognition of his work regarding Edgar Allan Poe. During the spring semester of 2009, he traveled to numerous sites in the U.S. and abroad to lecture on the renowned author as part of a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. Sponsored by the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow, Professor Peeples was invited to give the plenary speech at the international conference entitled “The Adventures of Edgar Allan Poe Through Time and Culture.” He was also slated to lead a seminar for faculty from major Moscow universities and colleges, including Fulbright grantees and research fellows from the Russian Academy of Science who supervise doctoral dissertations.
As part of his tour celebrating the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Peeples also lectured at conferences in Albacete, Spain; Boston College; the University of Virginia; Philadelphia; and at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.
For more information, contact Scott Peeples at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843.953.1993.