“I Would Prefer Not To”

scrivener Who hasn’t thought that. Not About the Buildings and the Providence Athenaeum present The Scrivener-In, a marathon reading of Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street and Poe’s The Raven, with discussion. Hear Poe read where Poe once walked.

Poe’s poem The Raven, published in 1845, made him famous and inspired praise, parody, and a craze for the phrase “Nevermore.” Melville’s story Bartleby the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street, published eight years later, also featured a narrator whose existence is interrupted by the arrival of a mysteriously implacable agent who replies to any inquiries or pleas for explanation with a single, unhelpful answer, in Bartleby’s case, “I would prefer not to.” Melville and Poe traveled on the edges of the same writerly circles, Melville was known to have read Poe, and no alert person of the era could have escaped the phrase “Nevermore.” Is Bartleby an homage to The Raven? A parody? A coincidental echo? We’ll read aloud these two singular, nearly contemporary works, consider their similarities and differences, and ponder the question of influence. This event is part 4 of the Athenaeum’s “Hark! The White Whale!” series.

Free and open to the public, Thursday, April 21, refreshments and sign-up-to-read at 5pm, reading starts at 5:30pm, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, 421.6970

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