Exploring Edgar Allen Poe’s Race-Class Anxiety

Dr. Janie Hinds’ paper looks at the historical record of “white trash” to explore Poe’s race-class anxiety and his character Pym’s slippage between and among categories of race and class.

Examining Edgar Allan Poe’s biography and his Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, this paper looks at the historical record of “white trash” to explore Poe’s race-class anxiety and his character, Pym’s slippage between and among categories of race and class.  Pym’s “middle passage” experience combines with his class passing to unsettle and revise both his class and race, just as Poe’s lifelong struggle with poverty and family produced an unstable status. 

In effect, Poe courted the attitudes, conditions, and behaviors of the lowest of social classes.  This study aims to bring the study of Poe, particularly as regards Pym, beyond the previous generation’s focus on race alone. In doing so, the goal is also to continue refining current practices of intersectionality, to include “white trash” in the scholarly conversation about whiteness, blackness, and social class.

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