Dinner, Death, and Darkness: A Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe

Appropriately dreary décor

Once again, the members of Sigma Tau Delta and the WIU English Department faculty gathered together for Dinner and Conversations, a biannual event where a faculty member hosts a literary-themed dinner party. This time, Dr. Timothy Helwig, our chapter’s faculty adviser, decided to focus on an author who is perhaps as infamous as he is famous: Edgar Allan Poe.

The Helwigs’ former funeral-home-of-a-house was decked out with references and appropriately dreary décor, from a squawking faux raven, to candles shining with Poe quotes, and cookies shaped and frosted in his likeness. Adding to the visual festivities, attendees dressed up as their favorite Poe characters, such as the murdered wife from “The Black Cat,” the Red Death, Annabelle Lee, and Poe himself.

Partway through the party, Dr. Timothy Helwig challenged us with trivia in the form of a quiz. Most of us struggled with the tricky test, but the top three were rewarded with Poe-themed prizes: a copy of the complete works of Poe, a raven finger puppet, and a Poe finger puppet.

The night was filled with discussions of the author, from the fact that most or all of his female characters are dead, to his final and unfinished work. But, being the talkative members of the English discourse community that we are, we branched out to a variety of topics, from emotional appeals in commercials, to Twilight, to teaching Dr. Banash about the saying “spilling the tea.” We laughed, debated, and bonded as a department. There’s something special about dressing up, eating good food, and holding literary conversations. This event is one of the benefits and specialties of our honors society. Let’s hope even more guests will attend next semester, and let’s look forward to our next opportunity to party like English nerds.

Dr. Magdelyn Helwig as Annabel Lee from the poem of the same name. Dr. Timothy Helwig as the Red Death from “The Masque of the Red Death”, and Courtney Bender as “The Masque of the Red Death”
Kaylee Gundling as Ligeia from the story of the same name and Desiree Steele as the murdered wife from “The Black Cat”
Dr. Richard Ness as an allusion to Poe’s unfinished final story
Dr. Magdelyn Helwig’s Poe-faced cookies