Scholar to talk on life, death of Edgar Allan Poe

February 11, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Stephen Berry, the Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era and co-director of the Center for Virtual History at the University of Georgia, will deliver a free public talk at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, in 302 Pond Lab. 

His lecture, "Drinking Yourself to Death in the Grand Age of Temperance: Edgar Allan Poe and the Art of Self-Destruction," will examine what Poe’s well-known alcoholism meant in an era of increasing temperance activism. Berry will discuss the causes and effects of Poe's drinking, the way it was exposed and pilloried in the temperance press, and how the attempt to bury him in ignominy as a self-destructive alcoholic ironically secured his immortality.

Berry feels compelled to study "old, unhappy, far-off things." His research explores the intersections of race, class, gender, family, depression, disappointment and death in the 19th-century South. He is the author or editor of four books on America in the mid-19th century, including "House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War," a Book of the Month Club main selection for March 2008, and "Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges." He oversees the Web project "CSI Dixie," devoted to the study of the coroner's office in the 19th century South.

Berry is secretary-treasurer of the Southern Historical Association; co-director, with Claudio Saunt, of the Center for Virtual History; and co-editor, with Amy Murrell Taylor, of the UnCivil Wars series at the University of Georgia Press. A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Berry helps head the Digital Humanities Initiative at the University of Georgia. His work has been supported by National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies, among others.

For more information on the lecture, the speaker or the Richards Center, contact the center at 814-863-0151 or visit the website at

  • Stephen Berry, University of Georgia

    Professor Stephen Berry will give a public talk, sponsored by the Richards Civil War Era Center.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 12, 2015