Edgar Allan Poe and his works have always been an important part of American literature and American cultural identity in terms of aestheticism and literary arts. However, little attention was given to Poe from a political and social perspective due to his subtle use of metaphors and hidden references to contemporary problems and events. Modern critics believe that because 19th-century writers were aware of the dangers of expressing personal views on social and political matters of that time, many of them deliberately disguised their personal outlooks. Therefore, critics suggest a reexamination of the American literary canon by acknowledging the Africanist presence, the influence of the Native culture, orientalism and American paradigms on American identity formation. One of the advocates of this new approach to literature is the African American author Toni Morrison, who claims that Poe is a key writer for understanding the Africanist presence in the American literary canon. She believes that due to his controversial Americanness, Edgar Allan Poe is a particularly interesting author whose works should be reexamined as an example of the hidden commentaries on many social and political events. Poe wrote his works during the period of American romanticism which is exemplified in Poe´s choice of topics which are at the same time intertwined with Gothic elements and racist motifs. In this thesis, Poe´s five tales have been analyzed for the purposes of discussing the controversy of his works, but also to show the importance of historicizing a literary work, its author and his background in order to properly understand the message that the author wanted to convey. The tales ˝Hop-Frog˝, ˝Metzengerstein˝ and ˝The Murders in the Rue Morgue˝ have been examined to show the Africanist presence in 19th-century literary works, ˝Ligeia˝ served as an example of Orientalist influence and American imperialism, and finally, ˝The Man That Was Used Up˝ is an exemplar of the contemporary political situation and problems with Native Americans. This discussion has been taken up to show the importance of Poe and his works in shaping the American cultural identity which has been marked by white supremacy, while other cultures in America have been suppressed and their importance has remained unacknowledged throughout history.
African Americans, American identity, Edgar Allan Poe, Native Americans, orientalism, slavery, race