SHAPING "THE RAVEN" WRITER
The Poe room is a popular spot on a tour through the grounds of U.Va., despite the fact that its former inhabitant only spent ten months studying in Charlottesville due to mounting debts. The room's setup, complete with a writing desk and that raven, causes visitors to imagine the troubled young man furiously composing verses beside the fire, which very well may have been the case on many of Poe's days in Charlottesville (though it is unclear if any bird came a-tapping on his door). With this setting aside of the room and especially the presence of that pesky raven, however, the university seems to be laying a pretty strong claim on Poe's writing, which is somewhat but not entirely justifiable. Poe's career editing the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he honed his harsh but sharp critical skills, probably shaped his own writing more than his ten months in Charlottesville, though the outskirts of the town did provide the setting for his “Tale of the Ragged Mountains.”
A few doors down above room 31 is a plaque commemorating the 1879 occupant of the room, one Woodrow Wilson. His old abode is not viewable to the public via a glass door. The former president does not get quite the same treatment as the prolific writer. Why is that? Does U.Va. value the contributions of a writer more than the commander-in-chief during World War I? Or did the school simply put the brakes on setting rooms aside? (What would be next, commemorating Katie Couric's old Lawn room?) Regardless of his neighbors of the future, Poe's presence at U.Va. seems a fascinating one as the school presents it via the museum-like room at 13 West Range.
This site was created by Emily Kane as part of the University of Virginia's American Studies program.