This article examines dozens of textual artifacts from 1985 to 2018 that illustrate the significant cultural place that Poe's “The Masque of the Red Death” occupied as a touchstone during the early years and subsequent decades of the AIDS crisis as its plot, characters, and imagery became useful vehicles for thinking through numerous issues around the epidemic and for supporting various positions in the social and political debates that developed. A consideration of how these works use “Masque” to reinforce or confront their times' prejudices, to advocate for political resistance and activism, and to address individual and collective grief provides the opportunity to understand how Poe's writing serves its future audiences in ways that its author and its earlier readers could never have imagined.

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