KOKOMO, Ind. — By day, Mark Canada is a mild-mannered English professor and Indiana University Kokomo administrator.
But outside of his day job, he’s an avid researcher of the tales of mystery and the macabre created by 19th century American author Edgar Allan Poe.
“Unlike a lot of people, I came to Poe late,” said Canada, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, explaining that he began studying Poe in earnest in graduate school. Since that time, he has written extensively on Poe’s brain, his “investigative fiction,” and more in several articles and books, including Literature and Journalism in Antebellum America. “Poe’s work is rich and complex, and there’s a lot of room for scholars to roam.”
With Halloween just around the (darkly lit) corner, Canada’s research is drawing more attention. His new Audible Original, Edgar Allan Poe: Master of Horror, came out this month. He also has been interviewed on the All IN radio show on WFYI, and he will be a panelist for a virtual “Night with Poe,” sponsored by the Kurt Vonnegut Museum, Friday, October 30.
His Audible book, available on Amazon, is a series of 10 half-hour lectures that discuss Poe’s stormy life, his lasting legacy, and several of his works, including “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
“The opportunity to create this series came at a strange time, although I think it turned out to be the right time,” Canada explained. “I had pitched it before COVID-19 turned our lives and careers upside down, and then I wound up working on it during one of the craziest times of my career—when we were re-inventing the university to operate safely during a pandemic. I made a point of doing the research and writing during my ‘free’ time: early mornings, lunch hours, evenings, and Saturdays.”
Canada also draws on his own research to discuss Poe’s creative method, in particular his use of the right brain, to touch readers in an extraordinary way.
“The right brain has been theorized to be a repressed entity, that plays a major role in dreams, images and negative emotions,” he said. “He attempts to tap into that part of our brain that other works don’t evoke so much. The idea of a divided brain is something Poe would have been familiar with.”
He wrote the book in late spring and early summer, and recorded it in July. It was published this month.
He will be a guest on All IN, a daily statewide talk show broadcast by WFYI at 1 p.m. Friday, October 30, talking about Poe’s life and mysterious death, his strange inclination toward self-destruction, his right brain, and his detective fiction. The segment will air on 90.1 FM, online at wfyi.org/listen-now, or can be downloaded as a podcast on most podcast platforms.
Canada said more than 170 years after his death, Poe’s work continues to resonate with readers — even though he didn’t get much respect in his own time. He’s received more appreciation in the 20th century and beyond, with respected authors like Joyce Carol Oates calling him an influence.
Canada believes contemporary readers are drawn to Poe for a variety of reasons.
“People who live lives similar to Poe’s, in terms of feeling like they are outsiders, find in him a kind of brother, in whom they find some kind of connection,” he said. “Even today, people find him to be a comrade, someone who is a fellow sufferer. He resonates in particular with artist types.”