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Great Lives Lecture- Edgar Allan Poe

March 28 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Edgar Allan Poe

Lecture Date: March 28, 2024

The Russell and Barbara Stone ‘79 Mait Lecture

It is a moment shrouded in horror and mystery. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849, at just forty, in a painful, utterly bizarre manner that would not have been out of place in one of his own tales of terror. What was the cause of his untimely death, and what happened to him during the three missing days before he was found, delirious and “in great distress” on the streets of Baltimore, wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own?

Mystery and horror. Poe, who remains one of the most iconic of American writers, died under haunting circumstances that reflect the two literary genres he took to new heights. Over the years, there has been a staggering amount of speculation about the cause of death, from rabies and syphilis to suicide, alcoholism, and even murder. But many of these theories are formed on the basis of the caricature we have come to associate with Poe: the gloomy-eyed grandfather of Goth, hunched over a writing desk with a raven perched on one shoulder, drunkenly scribbling his chilling masterpieces. By debunking the myths of how he lived, we come closer to understanding the real Poe—and uncovering the truth behind his mysterious death, as a new theory emerges that could prove the cause of Poe’s death was haunting him all his life.

In a compelling dual-timeline narrative alternating between Poe’s increasingly desperate last months and his brief but impactful life, Mark Dawidziak sheds new light on the enigmatic master of macabre.

Speaker: Mark Dawidziak

Mark Dawidziak is the author or editor of 25 books, including three studies of landmark television series: The Columbo Phile: A CasebookThe Night Stalker Companion and Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the The Twilight Zone, his lighthearted 2017 tribute to Rod Serling’s classic anthology series. He also is an internationally recognized Mark Twain scholar, and five of his books are about the iconic American writer. He has been portraying Twain on stage for more than 40 years. No less an authority than Ken Burns has said, “Nobody gets Mark Twain the way Mark Dawidziak does.” His most recent book is the biography A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe.

Born in New York, Dawidziak spent 43 years as a television, film and theater critic at such newspapers as the Akron Beacon Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2015, he was inducted into the Press Club of Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame.

He also is the author of the 1994 horror novel Grave Secrets, as well as such non-fiction books as The Barter Theatre Story: Love Made VisibleThe Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Dracula and The Shawshank Redemption RevealedHow One Story Keeps Hope Alive, a 2019 deep-dive look at the beloved film based on a novella by Stephen King. He also is the editor of three volumes of works by celebrated Twilight Zone contributor Richard Matheson, who mentioned Dawidziak in the dedications to two of his books. His work on the spooky side of the street also includes short stories, novellas, and comic book scripts.


March 28
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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University of Mary Washington


Dodd Auditorium
George Washington Hall, University of Mary Washington
Fredericksburg, 22401
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