Insert Footnote: Reading Poe in a Different Way

On the most superficial level, footnotes impact the layout of the page and draw attention to the additional material listed. It is not as an authentic experience as reading the letters in their original form.  Glancing at the footnotes as one is engaging in the correspondence slows one down, yet they make one analyze things that one might have otherwise overlooked when reading as well. The footnotes also make the reader approach Poe’s emotions and choices according to the viewpoint of the editor. In most cases, it was Harrison who decided what external facts needed to be known to understand the letters, although occasionally Whitman, as in this instance, altered aspects of the letters and put forth her explanation of Poe’s intentions.  The footnotes transform informal, personal correspondence between a couple into a study of Poe and his mindset, thus changing the tone and detaching the reader from the original author’s work. These footnotes range in content from biographical information to grammatical modifications. Another difference is one’s reading experience where the commentary is as important as the  main text. In one example, Sarah Whitman added brackets around a phrase which could influence how the reader interpreted the letter. Hence, the footnote in this scenario shows how Whitman reacted to the letter as well as  honestly admits to the reader that changes have been made to the content.  These footnotes certainly provide context to an audience that would not necessarily be privy to Poe’s beliefs and story, especially as the years progressed.

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