This dissertation demonstrates that images of Edgar Allan Poe have shaped his position in the literature and popular imaginary of the United States, that Poe's writings evidence his interest in photography and anticipate cinema, and that Poe's function as a technology has enabled politically diverse, international adaptations of his works and themes. To evaluate the politics of works of "Poe modernism," I interpret their engagement with what Walter Benjamin famously identified as the dual potential of technological reproducibility, or the ways in which photographic imaging has been alternately used to serve reactionary or progressive ends.
At the turn of the twentieth century, American journalist Thomas Dimmock and film directors D. W. Griffith and Charles Brabin used technologies of reproducibility to remake Poe from his tarnished image. Narrative accounts of photographic images of Poe published in The Century Magazine and romanticizations of Poe in the films The Avenging Conscience, or 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' and The Raven transform Poe into a model of white, middle-class masculinity. Tracing the etiology of this reconstruction of Poe to the work of William Abbott Pratt, a Gothic Revivalist architect and daguerreotypist, who served as Confederate emissary to England, I historicize and theorize the reproduction of racism within a largely unacknowledged strain of the Southern gothic.
Into his fiction, Poe incorporates techniques modeled on the first form of photography. Like other nineteenth-century writers, Poe characterized the daguerreotype as both more "magical" and more "truthful" than previous media. He took advantage of this paradoxical conception of photography to equivocate about the reality of race. Poe's stories suggest that daguerreotypy increased anxiety about the tenability of racial categories in the United States at the same time as they indicate that this arguably protocinematic technology was used to reconfigure a racial hierarchy based on invisible properties.
Poe's recognition of the significance of photography to ideology ensured attention to his works by filmmakers committed to social critique. European émigrés Robert Florey and Edgar G. Ulmer adapted Poe's writings to counter both Nazism and American racism. Similarly, reconfigurations of Poe in modern Japan link imaging technologies to constructed hierarchies of nation, race, gender, and sexuality. Specifically, I analyze Poe's influence on Japanese gothic from ero guro nansensu (erotic grotesque nonsense)--specifically, Midori Ozaki's fiction--to Ishiro Honda's Gojira to Nagisa Oshima's Max mon amour to the contemporary Ring cycle, adapted from Koji Suzuki's novel series.
Finally, I consider the consequences of the modernist fascination with instantaneity as manifested in, among other texts, Poe's "The Man of the Crowd" and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's multimedia exhibits on the first atomic bombing. The Peace Museum adapts gothic tropes to represent the horrific instantaneity of nuclear attack and to resist the racism that informed the United States' rationalization for deploying atomic bombs on Japan. In sum, this dissertation places Poe within a nexus of creators of textual and visual media all of whom are concerned with technology's effects on human life, perception, and representation.