University of South Carolina

Edgar Allan Poe is being celebrated in October

The University’s Arts Institute has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to sponsor a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe as part of The Big Read, a national initiative that brings communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate literature.

The $14,750 grant, which the institute received on its initial application, will help sponsor nearly 30 events during October, many of them featuring Carolina students and faculty, in Columbia and across the state. All events are free, and all participants will receive a copy of the featured book, Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth.

The Big Read is an NEA initiative in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. The 268 Big Read grantees for 2009-10 represent 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since the program began in 2006 with 10 participating organizations, the NEA has given more than 800 grants to support local Big Read projects.

“This is very exciting, for this grant has allowed us to create innovative arts-based events on a statewide level that showcase Carolina scholars, artists, and students,” said Charlene Spearen, program coordinator for the Arts Institute.

The Arts Institute seeks to encourage collaboration among the arts disciplines and to make the University's cultural arts more visible to students and the community. The Arts Institute encourages and oversees interdepartmental projects in the arts, creates programs to make arts a more vital part of student life, and maintains a Web site that pulls together all arts-related activities, events, and outreach for easy access by the community.

Kwame Dawes, the Louise Fry Scudder professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, is the director of the Arts Institute.

Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes

Several of the events will showcase the talents of Carolina students.

Emerging senior poets from the University will join with award-winning puppeteers from the Columbia Marionette Theatre to bring to life some of the works included in The Big Read’s featured book. “‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and Poems and Stories by Edgar Allan Poe” will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Richland County Public Library, 1431 Assembly St.; from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Richland County Public Library, North Main Branch, 5306 N. Main St.; and from  6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Richland County Library, Southeast Regional Branch, 741 Garners Ferry Road.

Students in the art department illustrated “Poe’s Poem in a Pocket,” a selection of Poe’s poems printed on colorful card stock and cut to fit the dimensions of a standard-size pocket. They will distribute the poems at the Elloree Arts and Antique Festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 10 on Cleveland Street in Elloree.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

Seniors majoring in poetry and art will lead a book discussion and workshop, targeting home-schooled students, on Poe’s use of nature in his poems and short stories. “Stark Raven Mad: Poe and Nature” will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at Harbison State Forest, 5500 Broad River Road.

Carolina students majoring in theatre will read selected works included in Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe at “Stark Raven Mad: Waking Poe” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Black Box Theater. The stage will be set with a coffin and funeral flowers. Guests will be asked to sign a "Guest List" and will be escorted to their seats by a student posing as the evening's mortician.

Students in the art department will create an image of a raven that will be featured on “Poe’s Poem in the Pocket,” with an excerpt from “The Raven” at “Stark Raven Mad: Trick or Treat with the Greeks.” The annual campus Greek organizations’ outreach program for children will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Greek Village.

Senior students majoring in studio art and poetry will focus on images of nature in Poe’s work as part of “Stark Raven Mad: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden” from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 30 at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. An art exhibition of the student's interpretations of Poe's poem "The Raven" will be a focal point for the poetry reading.

Several faculty members will participate in discussions of Poe’s life and work. They include:

  • Leon Jackson, an associate professor of English, who will explore connections to Poe's life and the mastery of his craft from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 5, Rutledge Chapel
  • Gretchen Woertendyke, an assistant professor of English, who will lead a discussion for teens and adults from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Richland County Public Library, Main Library
  • David S. Shields, the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, who will lead a discussion for teens and adults from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Richland County Public Library, Sandhills Branch, 1 Summit Parkway
  • Spearen, who will lead a discussion for teens and adults on Poe’s use of imagery as a means to evoke emotion in his poems from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Richland County Public Library, Cooper Branch, 5317 North Trenholm Road
  • Ray McManus, an assistant professor of English at USC Sumter, who will lead a discussion for teens only from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Richland County Public Library, Cooper Branch.

Other events will include screenings of classic films based on stories by Poe; a performance by the Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina; a reading by five poets at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island, the setting for “The Gold Bug," a short story written by Poe; and a discussion on nature in Poe’s work by Marjory Wentworth, poet laureate of South Carolina, at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.

For more information, contact Spearen at 7-5492 or

    For a complete list of events the Arts Institute has scheduled in Columbia and across the state to celebrate Edgar Allan Poe, click here.

Posted: 09/29/09 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 11/09/09 @ 1:53 PM | Permalink