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About the Creator and Performer

Mark Canada, PhD, is Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of English at Indiana University Kokomo. As a scholar of American literature and journalism, he has published five books, including Literature and Journalism in Antebellum America (2011), and Thomas Wolfe Remembered (2018). His numerous essays have appeared in The Southern Quarterly, Edgar Allan Poe in Context, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other outlets.
A 2008 recipient of the University of North Carolina’s prestigious Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, Professor Canada has taught numerous courses in the American novel, American literature before 1865, literature and journalism, biblical literature, writing, and the history and structure of the English language. Since 2015, he has been the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Indiana University Kokomo, where he oversees all academic operations.

What listeners say about Edgar Allan Poe: Master of Horror

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting but not what I was expecting

3 stars - I liked it

In these 10 lectures, Mark Canada dissects some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works. With heavy focus on the symbolism, imagery, rhythm and rhyme, and foreshadowing that Poe included in his stories and poetry, Canada relates that back to his own life and how it created such enthralling stories.

While this was very interesting,, I also had a few issues with it. First, if you liked dissecting literature in English class then you will probably like this. Unfortunately, I don’t like dissecting and picking apart stories. I read them to enjoy the stories, not to pick them apart for hidden symbolisms. Another issue was that the author, and narrator, would do a specific voice any time he read from Poe’s work, and it was very unflattering and annoying.

If you have not read the majority of Poe’s works, this discussion of them will most likely spoil what happens. So I recommend reading at least The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Purloined Letter, The Raven, Ulalume and Annabel Lee before listening to this if you care about that. These are the ones that he discusses the most.

So if you are a Poe fan and you want to dive deep into the symbolism of his work and learn more about how his life influenced it, than you might enjoy this audiobook. But if you are going into this expecting a biography then look somewhere else.

4 people found this helpful

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Shallow analyses

I loved Poe, but this course did not add anything but a lot of platitudes. And I can not stand the bad actor’s reading from the tales. Sorry, but I stoped listening after the 7 lecture.

4 people found this helpful

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At long last! A great book on Poe

I've been looking for a good Edgar Allan Poe biography on Audible. I found one that was about three hours long--and that was okay. But this one is much much better.

The lecturer, Mark Canada, clearly loves America's dark genius and that enthusiasm keeps the lectures lively and fast-moving.

The first series of lectures give an overview of Poe's truly tragic life. An absentee dad, a dead mother and a prickly, disapproving "adopted" dad. His doomed and very young wife. And his die-hard enemy, Rufus Griswold, who took the occasion of Poe's early demise to begin a hatchet job on the author's reputation.

So Canada, like other recent biographers, also questions whether Poe was the inveterate drunkard history has led us to believe. Many theories have been aired that could explain Poe's troubled personal life, his relationship to the bottle and his particularly dark genius.

A good chunk of the book is devoted to Poe's creative works. Not all or even most of them--that would be a monumental task, even given Poe's short life--but familiar ones, like "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." And the lecturer nicely puts Poe and his work in a historical context, which reveals just how truly unique and influential his work was.

If you're looking for another gripping Great Courses series in literature, I'd recommend Michael Shelden's "George Orwell: A Sage for All Seasons." That one really blew me away.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting and Entertaining

There were a few small spots of boring, but overall, it's a good review of this incredible author's life of turmoil and poverty. The theories about mental illness, alcoholism, and his death are well presented, as is Poe's influence on literature then, and now.

1 person found this helpful

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Very basic Poe bio

Seeing as this was one of few Poe bios available on Audible, I chose this book to listen just for the fun of it. It is a quick overview of his life and works, and makes a great intro for someone newly delving into Poe. I have read another biography of Poe before, so this one really felt like a skimming of the surface for me. It was enjoyable, however, to hear a different take on the classic author by a different source. The narrator had a way of reading quotes which came across as silly to me, using a faint-sounding, breathless, “woe is me” type of voice, but aside from that, he was interesting to hear speak.

1 person found this helpful

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Poe’s Voice

The readers “Poe” voice ruined this for me. Pompous and oddly feminine.. little lord fauntleroy vibes:(

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So good!

Huge Poe fan and you could absolutely tell Mark has a passion for the subject matter. Plus he’s a great narrator! Would highly recommend this for anyone interested in learning more about Poe in a short amount of time.

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NOT WHAT I EXPECTED

Being a fan of EAP for the past 50 years, I expected discussions of short stories by this self-proclaimed (often) expert. Not so. This is a biography of Poe's mostly non-successes. The author/narrator fancies himself an actor, and interjects quotes in a voice that is not appreciable, but laughably amateurish.

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This is terrible

Teacher is trying to be psychologist. That is bad enough. BUT, his literary analysis is sheer pablum. I do NOT MEAN to be SLIGHTEST bit insulting.

I've listened to Great Courses for 15 years.

Put this BACK under THEIR Purview. one cannot fake expertise of Great Courses quality. No more "Audible originals. "

I'm certain that I could learn something from this professor in a class, but inefficiently so. Nothing PERSONAL About this.

Get the MBAs OUT of the classroom

I was frightened when Great Courses Plus became Woodrium. They already Had a to product. No way to go, but down.

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Normal is just a disguise

Nevermore! When’s the last time you heard that word? Likely only in some context related to Edgar Allan Poe. As Professor Mark Canada describes it, he’s possibly the only poet who can be said to have taken ownership of an English word. You know it because as soon as you read the word, “nevermore,” you thought of Poe and the Raven. Likely the opening lines are etched into your brain, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,...” At least, you thought of the line, “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’”

I’m sure that there were others who really enjoyed our high school literature classes, but I was not one of them. I thought poetry was contrived and uninteresting and so many of the old classics were too hard to understand. I hated how teachers made you look for hidden meanings and symbolism. I just wanted the story, but actually by then, I no longer read so many stories. I was more interested in cars, in how things worked, in hiking and camping and the world. And what I didn’t realize is that those literary tools might not be noticed in a story, but are what draw the reader in and make it hard to stop reading. 

Looking back, I can’t say that I remember many other poems or maybe just remember a line or two and even those are not word-for-word, but the gist, like, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” And, I don’t remember who wrote them. But, I remember many of his poems and short stories,  The Raven, Annabel Lee, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Cask of Amontillado.

I’m not into horror stories. They just aren’t believable to me for the most part and don’t really scare me. But Poe’s were not just horror. There was nothing jumping out of the bushes. They were stories that made you think, “What?!” and sometimes made you shiver. In his famous stories and poems, there was a character who seemed to have some kind of severe mental disorder, but not always psychological. Sometimes it was the result of guilt.  There was something obviously warped about Poe, but wrapped in genius. Poe is the most famous poet to write in English (well, other than Shakespeare), if you look worldwide.  Poe’s works have been translated into more languages than we can keep up with, even into Latin. Really? It’s not like Cicero is going to read them and the Pope is fluent in more than just Latin.

Canada starts with Poe’s life and it was tragic and by itself explains some of what we know of him. He was born Edgar Poe in Boston in 1809 to two actors. His father abandoned the family a year later and his mother died a year after that of tuberculosis. A wealthy merchant,John Allan, took him in and raised him, giving him his middle name but never adopting him. It seemed that Poe was both spoiled and also very sternly disciplined and that his foster father never believed that he was good enough. The break from his foster father occurred during Poe’s first year at the University of Virginia when Mr. Allan refused to send money to pay Poe’s gambling debts and his tuition. It was then that Poe also found that the woman who had agreed to marry him had married another man. 

Poe struggled with several jobs, joined the military, left to attend West Point, then later purposely got court-martialled so that he could leave. His foster mother died during this time also. He did begin to get some books of poetry published during this time, but the earnings were nothing that he could live on. He traveled to Baltimore to his aunt’s home shortly before his elder brother also passed away. He eventually married his cousin who was 13 at the time but it seems that their marriage was happy--until she also died of tuberculosis at age 24. 

Poe exhibited bizarre behavior all of his life and not all can be blamed on the tragedies that he faced. Canada also goes into many of the various theories of different mental illnesses or even strokes that could explain some of his behavior and his writings. Poe believed that every person was capable of madness and that “normality” was only a surface presentation to cover up what was really happening in the mind, a view that has much in common with Christian theology. And Poe was not afraid to explore any nook and cranny, no matter how dark or scary. But, he also sought acceptance and, during his lifetime, he did not find it through his literary works. He felt that when he did find it, that person was taken from him and the death of his wife was particularly difficult. He died only a few years after his beloved wife and in very mysterious circumstances that has given rise to many different theories and conspiracy theories. He was 40 years old. At one time, he wrote,  “. . . it was my crime to have no one on Earth who cared for me, or loved me,”

This course probably would not satisfy someone looking for in-depth scholarly discussion of his writings, but Canada does a good job at reviewing some of the more significant ones and in terms that can be understood by the average reader. For me, it made me want to read Poe’s works again or some for the first time. That’s a pretty good compliment itself.