Scott Peeples


On his book The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

Cover Interview of May 12, 2021


I wrote in the book’s introduction that this is not a work of academic literary criticism (my background) but that I wanted to write primarily for a non-specialist audience with this project. So when I did discuss specific works by Poe, I could hear the clock ticking, if you know what I mean. I wanted to make these stories more interesting to readers than they would be if you just picked them up without knowing anything about the context. But even when I discussed the title story, “The Man of the Crowd”, I kept it to about three and a half pages. I just tried to be selective in the analysis, keeping the book’s focus and my “ideal” reader in mind.

At the same time, I didn’t want to leave significant gaps in the biographical record—I tried to tell a good, true story. If I succeeded, the book works both as an introduction to Edgar Allan Poe and his life for people who are casually acquainted with him and as a book that’s making an argument—that Poe’s career is inseparable from the development of the American city. I hope readers will recalibrate their image of Poe as they read the book and understand him as a writer who was very much engaged with his surroundings, and who struggled to succeed in a rapidly changing world.