From popular culture to politics to classic novels, quintessentially American texts take their inspiration from the idea of infinity. In the extraordinary literary century inaugurated by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the lyric too seemed to encounter possibilities as limitless as the U.S. imagination. This raises the question: What happens when boundlessness is more than just a figure of speech? Exploring new horizons is one thing, but actually looking at the horizon itself is something altogether different. In this carefully crafted analysis, James von der Heydt shines a new light on the lyric craft of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill and considers how their seascape-vision redefines poetry's purpose.
Emerson famously freed U.S. literature from its past and opened it up to vastness; in the following century, a succession of brilliant, rigorous poets took the philosophical challenges of such freedom all too seriously. Facing the unmarked horizon, Emersonian poets capture—and are captured by—a stark, astringent version of human beauty. Their uncompromising visions of limitlessness reclaim infinity's proper legacy—and give American poetry its edge. Von der Heydt's book recovers the mystery of their world.
Choosing Not Choosing
Sharon Cameron University of Chicago Press, 1993 Library of Congress PS1541.Z5C287 1992 | Dewey Decimal 811.4
Although Emily Dickinson copied and bound her poems into manuscript notebooks, in the century since her death her poems have been read as single lyrics with little or no regard for the context she created for them in her fascicles. Choosing Not Choosing is the first book-length consideration of the poems in their manuscript context. Sharon Cameron demonstrates that to read the poems with attention to their placement in the fascicles is to observe scenes and subjects unfolding between and among poems rather than to think of them as isolated riddles, enigmatic in both syntax and reference. Thus Choosing Not Choosing illustrates that the contextual sense of Dickinson is not the canonical sense of Dickinson.
Considering the poems in the context of the fascicles, Cameron argues that an essential refusal of choice pervades all aspects of Dickinson's poetry. Because Dickinson never chose whether she wanted her poems read as single lyrics or in sequence (nor is it clear where any fascicle text ends, or even how, in context, a poem is bounded), "not choosing" is a textual issue; it is also a formal issue because Dickinson refused to chose among poetic variants; it is a thematic issue; and, finally, it is a philosophical one, since what is produced by "not choosing" is a radical indifference to difference. Extending the readings of Dickinson offered in her earlier book Lyric Time, Cameron continues to enlarge our understanding of the work of this singular American poet.
This valuable resource for Dickinson scholars is based on the Thomas H. Johnson three-volume edition of the letters (published in 1958 and 1965) as well as the 1998 one-volume paperback edition. The primary importance of the concordance pertains to the poetic quality of the letters themselves. As editor of both the poems and the letters, T.H. Johnson recognizes this link when he writes: "the letters both in style and rhythm begin to take on qualities that are so nearly the quality of her poems as on occasion to leave the reader in doubt where the letter leaves off and the poem begins."
The similarities between the letters and the poems makes the typical concordance search for the poet's thematically significant words and biographical references particularly relevant. Tracing Dickinson's thoughts through her correspondence complements the ideas within her poetry and thus provides a more comprehensive insight into the poet's personal and artistic development. The concordance will facilitate an understanding of words or concepts that may be obscure in the poetry by itself. Research into Dickinson's problematic style, characterized by gaps, disjunctions, and ellipses, will be greatly enhanced.
By listing Dickinson's words together with their contexts and frequencies, the concordance provides the scholar with the ability to answer confidently questions of a statistical or stylistic nature. Finally, one of the most important functions of this concordance is to provide scholar, student, and general reader alike with endless opportunities to make exciting and unexpected discoveries by way of browsing.
Helen Vendler Harvard University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS1541.A6 2010 | Dewey Decimal 811.4
Seamus Heaney, Denis Donoghue, William Pritchard, Marilyn Butler, Harold Bloom, and many others have praised Helen Vendler as one of the most attentive readers of poetry. Here, Vendler turns her illuminating skills as a critic to 150 selected poems of Emily Dickinson. As she did in The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, she serves as an incomparable guide, considering both stylistic and imaginative features of the poems.
In selecting these poems for commentary Vendler chooses to exhibit many aspects of Dickinson’s work as a poet, “from her first-person poems to the poems of grand abstraction, from her ecstatic verses to her unparalleled depictions of emotional numbness, from her comic anecdotes to her painful poems of aftermath.” Included here are many expected favorites as well as more complex and less often anthologized poems. Taken together, Vendler’s selection reveals Emily Dickinson’s development as a poet, her astonishing range, and her revelation of what Wordsworth called “the history and science of feeling.”
In accompanying commentaries Vendler offers a deeper acquaintance with Dickinson the writer, “the inventive conceiver and linguistic shaper of her perennial themes.” All of Dickinson’s preoccupations—death, religion, love, the natural world, the nature of thought—are explored here in detail, but Vendler always takes care to emphasize the poet’s startling imagination and the ingenuity of her linguistic invention. Whether exploring less familiar poems or favorites we thought we knew, Vendler reveals Dickinson as “a master” of a revolutionary verse-language of immediacy and power. Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries will be an indispensable reference work for students of Dickinson and readers of lyric poetry.
Poetry written by the gifted recluse Emily Dickinson has remained fresh and enigmatic for longer than works by her male Transcendentalist counterparts. Here Mary Loeffelholz reads Dickinson's poetry and career in the double context of nineteenth-century literary tradition and twentieth-century feminist literary theory.
"Mary Loeffelholz has written a book that actually performs what it promises. . . . It illuminates our understanding of Emily Dickinson with readings both elegant and useful, and as importantly suggests modified direction for feminist-psychoanalytic theory."
-- Diana Hume George, author of Oedipus Anne: The Poetry of Anne Sexton
Even before the first books of her poems were published in the 1890s, friends, neighbors, and even apparently strangers knew Emily Dickinson was a writer of remarkable verses. Featuring both well-known documents and material printed or collected here for the first time, this book offers a broad range of writings that convey impressions of Dickinson in her own time and for the first decades following the publication of her poems. It all begins with her school days and continues to the centennial of her birth in 1930.
In addition, promotional items, reviews, and correspondence relating to early publications are included, as well as some later documents that reveal the changing assessments of Dickinson’s poetry in response to evolving critical standards. These documents provide evidence that counters many popular conceptions of her life and reception, such as the belief that the writer best known for poems focused on loss, death, and immortality was herself a morose soul. In fact, those who knew her found her humorous, playful, and interested in other people.
Dickinson maintained literary and personal correspondence with major representatives of the national literary scene, developing a reputation as a remarkable writer even as she maintained extreme levels of privacy. Evidence compiled here also demonstrates that she herself made considerable provision for the survival of her poems and laid the groundwork for their eventual publication. Dickinson in Her Own Time reveals the poet as her contemporaries knew her, before her legend took hold.
From the award-winning author of Poe the Detective: The Curious Circumstances Behind "The Mystery of Marie Roget"comes a compelling argument for the identity of Emily Dickinson’s true love
Proud of my broken heart
Since thou didst break it,
Proud of the pain I
Did not feel till thee . . .
Those words were written by Emily Dickinson to a married man. Who was he?
For a century or more the identity of Emily Dickinson’s mysterious “Master” has been eagerly sought, especially since three letters from her to him were found and published in 1955. In Emily Dickinson in Love, John Evangelist Walsh provides the first book-length treatment of this fascinating subject, offering a solution based wholly on documented facts and the poet’s own writings.
Crafting the affair as a love story of rare appeal, and writing with exquisite attention to detail, in Part I Walsh reveals and meticulously proves the Master to be Otis Lord, a friend of the poet’s father and a man of some reputation in law and politics. Part II portrays the full dimensions of their thirty-year romance, most of it clandestine, including a series of secret meetings in Boston.
After uncovering and confirming the Master’s identity, Walsh fits that information into known events of Emily’s life to make sense of facts long known but little understood—Emily’s decision to dress always in white, for instance, or her extreme withdrawal from a normal existence when she had previously been an active, outgoing friend to many men and women.
In a lengthy section of Notes and Sources, Walsh presents his proofs in abundant detail, demonstrating that the evidence favors one man so irresistibly that there is left no room for doubt. Each reader will decide if he has truly succeeded in making the case for Otis Lord.
As much a doubter as a believer, Emily Dickinson often expressed views about God in general—and God with respect to suffering in particular. In many of her poems, she contemplates the question posed by countless theologians and poets before her: how can one reconcile a benevolent deity with evil in the world?
Examining Dickinson’s perspectives on the role played by a supposedly omnipotent and all-loving God in a world marked by violence and pain, Patrick Keane initially focuses on her poem “Apparently with no surprise,” in which frost, a “blonde Assassin,” beheads a “happy Flower,” a spectacle presided over by “an Approving God.” This tiny lyric,Keane shows, epitomizes the poet’s embattled relationship with the deity of her Calvinist tradition.
Although the problem of sufferingis usually couched in terms of natural disasters or human injustice, Dickinson found new ways of considering it. By choosing a flower as her innocent “victim,” she bypassed standard “answers” to the dilemma (suffering as justified punishment for wickedness, or as attributable to the assertion of free will) in order to focus on the problem in its purest symbolic form. Keane goes on toprovide close readings of many of Dickinson’s poems and letters engaging God, showing how she addressed the challenges posed—by her own experience and by an innate skepticism reinforced by a nascent Darwinism—to the argument from design and the concept of a benevolent deity.
More than a dissection of a single poem, Keane’s book is a sweeping personal reflection on literature and religion, faith and skepticism, theology and science. He traces the evolving history of the Problem of Suffering from the Hebrew Scriptures (Job and Ecclesiastes), through the writings of Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, to the most recent theological and philosophical studies of the problem. Keane is interested in how readers today respond to Emily Dickinson’s often combative poems about God; at the same time, she is located as a poet whose creative life coincided with the momentous changes and challenges to religious faith associated with Darwin andNietzsche.Keane also considers Dickinson’s poems and letters in the context of the great Romantic tradition, as it runs fromMilton throughWordsworth, demonstrating how thework of these poets (perhaps surprisingly in the case of the latter)helps illuminate Dickinson’s poetry and thought.
Because Dickinson the poet was also Emily the gardener, her love of flowers was an appropriate vehicle for her observations on mortality and her expressions of doubt. Emily Dickinson’s Approving God is a graceful study that reveals not only the audacity of Dickinson’s thought but also its relevance to modern readers. In light of ongoing confrontations between Darwinism and design, science and literal conceptions of a divine Creator, it is an equally provocative read for students of literature and students of life.
Emily Dickinson should stand as a major gothic author among her nineteenth-century American contemporaries, but two factors have previously prevented her inclusion in such company. Perhaps the most obvious is the problem of the genre: Dickinson writes gothic poetry, whereas gothic fiction defines the genre. In addition, her poetic personae have served over the decades to prompt critics to “protect” her; traditional critics concentrated on the sweet, romantic elements of her oeuvre. More recent readers, notably Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Jane Egerwein, and Cynthia Griffin Wolff, have begun studying Dickinson's gothic traits; Emily Dickinson's Gothic explores Dickinsonian gothicism with the systematic rigor it demands and deserves.
Emily Dickinson's Gothic also addresses sociohistorical concerns, from hallowed gothic conventions dating from Horace Walpole's eighteenth century to such modernist neogothic topics as rape, the void, and disjunctive language that appear in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wardrop recognizes the full extent to which the gothic pervades Dickinson's canon and the means by which the gothic determines her aesthetic. Such full consideration of women's gothicism allows the placement of Dickinson within a literary context, both in terms of American writers and in terms of women writers.
Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing is a fine facsimile edition and aesthetic exploration of a group of forty late drafts and fragments hitherto known as the "Lord letters." The drafts are presented in facsimile form on high-quality paper alongside typed transcriptions that reproduce as fully as possible the shock of script and startling array of visual details inscribed on the surfaces of the manuscripts.
Werner argues that a redefinition of the editorial enterprise is needed to approach the revelations of these writings-- the details that have been all but erased by editorial interventions and print conventions in the twentieth century. Paradoxically, "un-editing" them allows an exploration of the relationship between medium and messages. Werner's commentary forsakes the claims to comprehensiveness generally associated with scholarly narrative in favor of a series of speculative and fragmentary "close-ups"--a portrait in pieces. Finally, she proposes the acts of both reading and writing as visual poems.
A crucial reference for Dickinson scholars, this book is also of primary importance to textual scholars, editorial theorists, and students of gender and cultural studies interested in the production, dissemination, and interpretation of works by women writers.
This publication has been supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Marta L. Werner received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York-Buffalo. She is an independent scholar and a member of the Emily Dickinson Editing Collective.
Cristanne Miller’s major edition of Dickinson’s poems presents the 1,100 poems the poet retained during her lifetime, in the form she retained them. Dickinson took pains to copy these poems onto folded sheets in fair hand, arguably to preserve them for posterity. Included are Dickinson’s alternate phrases and the editor’s notes and Introduction.
This work reprint, annotates, and indexes virtually all mention of Emily Dickinson in the first decade of her publication, tripling the known references to the poet during the nineties. Much of this material, drawn from scrapbooks of clippings, rare journals, and crumbling newspapers, was on the verge of extinction.
Modern audiences will be struck by the impact of Dickinson’s poetry on her first readers. We learn much about the taste of the period and the relationship between publishers, reviewers, and the reading public. It demonstrates that Dickinson enjoyed a wider popular reception than had been realized: readers were astonished by her creative brilliance.
In this first substantial study of Emily Dickinson's devotion to flowers and gardening, Judith Farr seeks to join both poet and gardener in one creative personality. She casts new light on Dickinson's temperament, her aesthetic sensibility, and her vision of the relationship between art and nature, revealing that the successful gardener's intimate understanding of horticulture helped shape the poet's choice of metaphors for every experience: love and hate, wickedness and virtue, death and immortality.
Gardening, Farr demonstrates, was Dickinson's other vocation, more public than the making of poems but analogous and closely related to it. Over a third of Dickinson's poems and nearly half of her letters allude with passionate intensity to her favorite wildflowers, to traditional blooms like the daisy or gentian, and to the exotic gardenias and jasmines of her conservatory. Each flower was assigned specific connotations by the nineteenth century floral dictionaries she knew; thus, Dickinson's association of various flowers with friends, family, and lovers, like the tropes and scenarios presented in her poems, establishes her participation in the literary and painterly culture of her day. A chapter, "Gardening with Emily Dickinson" by Louise Carter, cites family letters and memoirs to conjecture the kinds of flowers contained in the poet's indoor and outdoor gardens. Carter hypothesizes Dickinson's methods of gardening, explaining how one might grow her flowers today.
Beautifully illustrated and written with verve, The Gardens of Emily Dickinson will provide pleasure and insight to a wide audience of scholars, admirers of Dickinson's poetry, and garden lovers everywhere.
Table of Contents:
Introduction 1. Gardening in Eden 2. The Woodland Garden 3. The Enclosed Garden 4. The "Garden in the Brain" 5. Gardening with Emily Dickinson Louise Carter Epilogue: The Gardener in Her Seasons
Appendix: Flowers and Plants Grown by Emily Dickinson Abbreviations Notes Acknowledgments Index of Poems Cited Index
Reviews of this book: In this first major study of our beloved poet Dickinson's devotion to gardening, Farr shows us that like poetry, gardening was her daily passion, her spiritual sustenance, and her literary inspiration...Rather than speaking generally about Dickinson's gardening habits, as other articles on the subject have done, Farr immerses the reader in a stimulating and detailed discussion of the flowers Dickinson grew, collected, and eulogized...The result is an intimate study of Dickinson that invites readers to imagine the floral landscapes that she saw, both in and out of doors, and to re-create those landscapes by growing the same flowers (the final chapter is chock-full of practical gardening tips). --Maria Kochis, Library Journal
Reviews of this book: This is a beautiful book on heavy white paper with rich reproductions of Emily Dickinson's favorite flowers, including sheets from the herbarium she kept as a young girl. But which came first, the flowers or the poems? So intertwined are Dickinson's verses with her life in flowers that they seem to be the lens through which she saw the world. In her day (1830-86), many people spoke 'the language of flowers.' Judith Farr shows how closely the poet linked certain flowers with her few and beloved friends: jasmine with editor Samuel Bowles, Crown Imperial with Susan Gilbert, heliotrope with Judge Otis Lord and day lilies with her image of herself. The Belle of Amherst, Mass., spent most of her life on 14 acres behind her father's house on Main Street. Her gardens were full of scented flowers and blossoming trees. She sent notes with nosegays and bouquets to neighbors instead of appearing in the flesh. Flowers were her messengers. Resisting digressions into the world of Dickinson scholarship, Farr stays true to her purpose, even offering a guide to the flowers the poet grew and how to replicate her gardens. --Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
Cuttings from the book: "The pansy, like the anemone, was a favorite of Emily Dickinson because it came up early, announcing the longed-for spring, and, as a type of bravery, could withstand cold and even an April snow flurry or two in her Amherst garden. In her poem the pansy announces itself boldly, telling her it has been 'resoluter' than the 'Coward Bumble Bee' that loiters by a warm hearth waiting for May." "She spoke of the written word as a flower, telling Emily Fowler Ford, for example, 'thank you for writing me, one precious little "forget-me-not" to bloom along my way.' She often spoke of a flower when she meant herself: 'You failed to keep your appointment with the apple-blossoms,' she reproached her friend Maria Whitney in June 1883, meaning that Maria had not visited her . . . Sometimes she marked the day or season by alluding to flowers that had or had not bloomed: 'I said I should send some flowers this week . . . [but] my Vale Lily asked me to wait for her.'" "People were also associated with flowers . . . Thus, her loyal, brisk, homemaking sister Lavinia is mentioned in Dickinson's letters in concert with sweet apple blossoms and sturdy chrysanthemums . . . Emily's vivid, ambitious sister-in-law Susan Dickinson is mentioned in the company of cardinal flowers and of that grand member of the fritillaria family, the Crown Imperial."
In this study of American cultural production from the colonial era to the present, Russell Reising takes up the loose ends of popular American narratives to craft a new theory of narrative closure. In the range of works examined here—from Phillis Wheatley’s poetry to Herman Melville’s Israel Potter , from Henry James’s "The Jolly Corner" to the Disney Studio’s Dumbo—Reising finds endings that violate all existing theories of closure and narratives that expose the the often unarticulated issues that inspired these texts. Reising suggests that these "non-endings" entirely refocus the narrative structures they appear to conclude, accentuate the narrative stresses and ideological fissures that the texts seem to suppress, and reveal "shadow narratives" that trail alongside the dominant story line. He argues that unless the reader notices the ruptures in the closing moments of these works, the social and historical moments in which the narrative and the reader are embedded will be missed. This reading not only offers new interpretive possibilities, but also uncovers startling affinities between the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and the fiction of Henry James, between Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland and Melville’s least-studied novel, and between Emily Dickinson’s poem "I Started Early—Took My Dog" and Disney’s animated classic. Pursuing the implications of these failed moments of closure, Reising elaborates on topics ranging from the roots of domestic violence and mass murder in early American religious texts to the pornographic imperative of mid-century nature writing, and from James’s "descent" into naturalist and feminist fiction to Dumbo’s explosive projection of commercial, racial, and political agendas for postwar U. S. culture.
The image is so well known it is practically iconic: The reclusive poet, feminine and fragile, weaving verse of beguiling complexity from the room in which she kept herself sequestered from the world. The Belle of Amherst, the distinctive American voice, the singer of the soul’s mysteries: Emily Dickinson.
Yet that image scarcely captures the fullness and vitality of Dickinson’s life, most notably her many connections—to family, to friends, to correspondents, to the literary tastemakers of her day, even to the unnamed, and perhaps unknowable, “Master” to whom she addressed three of her most breathtaking works of prose. Through an exploration of a relatively small group of items from Dickinson’s vast literary remains, this volume—an accompaniment to an exhibition on Dickinson mounted at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York—demonstrates the complex ways in which these often humble objects came into conversation with other people, places, and events in the poet’s life. Seeing the network of connections and influences that shaped Dickinson’s life presents us with a different understanding of this most enigmatic yet elegiac poet in American letters, and allows us more fully to appreciate both her uniqueness and her humanity.
The materials collected here make clear that the story of Dickinson’s manuscripts, her life, and her work is still unfolding. While the image of Dickinson as the reclusive poet dressed only in white remains a popular myth, details of Dickinson’s life continue to emerge. Several items included both in the exhibit and in this volume were not known to exist until the present century. The scrap of biographical intelligence recorded by Sarah Tuthill in a Mount Holyoke catalogue, or the concern about Dickinson’s salvation expressed by Abby Wood in a private letter to Abiah Root, were acquired by Amherst College in the last fifteen years. What additional pieces of evidence remain to be uncovered and identified in the attics and basements of New England?
Published to accompany The Morgan Library & Museum’s pathbreaking exhibit I’m Nobody! Who are You? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson—part of a series of exhibits at the Morgan celebrating and exploring the creative lives of significant women authors—The Networked Recluse offers the reader an account of the exhibit itself, together with a series of contributions by curators, scholars of Dickinson, and poets whose own work her words have influenced.
"The most subtly intelligent discussion of Dickinson's spirituality."
--Harold Bloom, Genius
" . . . a truly literary study in the largest, most humane, sense. Instead of subjecting poems to the distortions of theory, it brings biography, theology, psychology, and cultural history to bear on the intricacies of language, where all the issues of the poet's life and work converge, contend, and seek resolution."
--Albert Gelpi, American Literature
" . . . insightful readings of many of Dickinson's difficult poems and . . . a significant contribution to Dickinson studies."
"McIntosh shows the power of Dickinson's religious quest in word, in verse, and in truth. He shows that she was much more than an ever-adolescent angry rebel trying to subvert the religious oppression of benighted Amherst neighbors."
---Emily Dickinson Journal
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are widely acknowledged as two of America’s foremost nature poets, primarily due to their explorations of natural phenomena as evocative symbols for cultural developments, individual experiences, and poetry itself. Yet for all their metaphorical suggestiveness, Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poems about the natural world neither preclude nor erase nature’s relevance as an actual living environment. In their respective poetic projects, the earth matters both figuratively, as a realm of the imagination, and also as the physical ground that is profoundly affected by human action. This double perspective, and the ways in which it intersects with their formal innovations, points beyond their traditional status as curiously disparate icons of American nature poetry. That both of them not only approach nature as an important subject in its own right, but also address human-nature relationships in ethical terms, invests their work with important environmental overtones.
Dickinson and Whitman developed their environmentally suggestive poetics at roughly the same historical moment, at a time when a major shift was occurring in American culture’s view and understanding of the natural world. Just as they were achieving poetic maturity, the dominant view of wilderness was beginning to shift from obstacle or exploitable resource to an endangered treasure in need of conservation and preservation.
A Place for Humility examines Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poetry in conjunction with this important change in American environmental perception, exploring the links between their poetic projects within the context of developing nineteenth-century environmental thought. Christine Gerhardt argues that each author's poetry participates in this shift in different but related ways, and that their involvement with their culture’s growing environmental sensibilities constitutes an important connection between their disparate poetic projects. There may be few direct links between Dickinson’s “letter to the World” and Whitman’s “language experiment,” but via a web of environmentally-oriented discourses, their poetry engages in a cultural conversation about the natural world and the possibilities and limitations of writing about it—a conversation in which their thematic and formal choices meet on a surprising number of levels.
Helen Vendler Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PR502.V465 2004 | Dewey Decimal 821.009
Poetry has often been considered an irrational genre, more expressive than logical, more meditative than given to coherent argument. And yet, in each of the four very different poets she considers here, Helen Vendler reveals a style of thinking in operation; although they may prefer different means, she argues, all poets of any value are thinkers.
The four poets taken up in this volume--Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats--come from three centuries and three nations, and their styles of thinking are characteristically idiosyncratic. Vendler shows us Pope performing as a satiric miniaturizer, remaking in verse the form of the essay, Whitman writing as a poet of repetitive insistence for whom thinking must be followed by rethinking, Dickinson experimenting with plot to characterize life's unfolding, and Yeats thinking in images, using montage in lieu of argument.
With customary lucidity and spirit, Vendler traces through these poets' lines to find evidence of thought in lyric, the silent stylistic measures representing changes of mind, the condensed power of poetic thinking. Her work argues against the reduction of poetry to its (frequently well-worn) themes and demonstrates, instead, that there is always in admirable poetry a strenuous process of thinking, evident in an evolving style--however ancient the theme--that is powerful and original.
Proofs of Genius: Collected Editions from the American Revolution to the Digital Age is the first extensive study of the collected edition as an editorial genre within American literary history. Unlike editions of an author’s “selected works” or thematic anthologies, which clearly indicate the presence of non-authorial editorial intervention, collected editions have typically been arranged to imply an unmediated documentary completeness. By design, the collected edition obscures its own role in shaping the cultural reception of the author.
In Proofs of Genius, Amanda Gailey argues that decisions to re-edit major authorial corpora are acts of canon-formation in miniature that indicate more foundational shifts in the way a culture views its literature and itself. By combining a theoretically-informed approach with a broad historical view of collected editions from the late eighteenth century to the present (including the rise of digital editions), Gailey fills a gap in the textual scholarship of the editing history of major figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and of the American literary canon itself.
Heginbotham’s book focuses on Emily Dickinson’s work as a deliberate writer and editor. The fascicles were forty small portfolios of her poems written between 1856 and 1864, composed on four to seven stationery sheets, folded, stacked, and sewn together with twine. What revelations might come from reading her poems in her own context? Are they simply “scrapbooks,” as some claim, or are they evidence of conscious, canny editing? Read in their original places, each lyric becomes different—and more interesting—than when read in isolation.
We cannot know why Dickinson compiled the books or what she thought of them, but we can observe what she left in them. What she left is visible only by noting the way the poem answers in a dialogue across the pages, the way lines spilling onto a second page introduce the next poem, the way openings suggest image clusters so that each book has its own network of concerns and language—not a story or philosophical preachment but an aesthetic wholeness.
This book is the first to demonstrate that Dickinson’s poetic and philosophical creativity is most startling when the reader observes the individual lyric in the poet’s own, and only, context for them. For teacher, student, scholar, and poetry lover, Heginbotham creates an important new framework for understanding one of the most complex, clever, and profound U.S. poets.
In Shifting the Ground, Rachel Stein adds a feminist slant to the field of ecocriticism. Americans have historically defined themselves in terms of their conquest of "virgin land." Unfortunately, this identification has often proved disastrous to groups such as women, Native Americans, and African Americans, who were regarded as nature incarnate, part of the ground that must be mastered in the name of nation.
From a perspective of ecofeminist theory, Stein suggests that selected writings by Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Leslie Marmon Silko cannily revise intersections between American conceptions of nature and problematic formulations of gender and race. Writing from diverse social positions, each author examines a historical instance of this colonial conjunction: Dickinson grapples with the forces of Victorian Puritanism; Hurston interrogates Afro-Caribbean and African-American women's abuse as "beasts of burden"; Walker examines black mothers' struggles in the Jim Crow South as the legacy of their history as slave "chattel"; and Silko treats social ills of Native Americans as stemming from their objectification by white settlers.
In order to alleviate these oppressive conditions, Stein argues, each writer incorporates an alternative conception of nature from popular and indigenous traditions such as sentimentalism, Voodoo, African-American animism, and Laguna Pueblo story cycles. By reinterpreting nature, they transform their characters from social objects into self-empowered subjects.
Recasting these authors against the backdrop of conquest rhetoric, Stein offers provocative new readings of their texts. Her book paves the way for further development of ecocriticism and ecofeminist theory with regard to American women writers.
"Shifting the Ground examines the ways in which four women writers--Dickinson, Hurston, Walker, and Silko--subvert the destructive American mythos of 'nature's nation' and replace it with alternative visions of egalitarian interrelations between nature, gender, and race. Stein's study is well-informed, cogently written, and intelligent. Shifting the Ground is ecofeminist literary criticism at its best."
--Cheryll Glotfelty, University of Nevada, Reno
Rachel Stein is Assistant Professor of English at Siena College.
This unique anthology gathers work by eighty poets inspired by Emily Dickinson. Beginning with Hart Crane's 1927 poem “To Emily Dickinson” and moving forward through the century to such luminary figures as Archibald MacLeish, John Berryman, Yvor Winters, Adrienne Rich, Richard Eberhart, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, Amy Clampitt, William Stafford, and Galway Kinnell, Visiting Emily offers both a celebration of and an homage to one of the world's great poets.
If there was ever any doubt about Dickinson's influence on modern and contemporary poets, this remarkable collection surely puts it to rest. Gathered here are poems reflecting a wide range of voices, styles, and forms—poems written in traditional and experimental forms; poems whose tones are meditative, reflective, reverent and irreverent, satirical, whimsical, improvisational, and serious. Many of the poets draw from Dickinson's biography, while others imagine events from her life. Some poets borrow lines from Dickinson's poems or letters as triggers for their inspiration. Though most of the poems connect directly to Dickinson's life or work, for others the connection is more oblique.
Whitman & Dickinson is the first collection to bring together original essays by European and North American scholars directly linking the poetry and ideas of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. The essays present intersections between these great figures across several fields of study, rehearsing well-established topics from new perspectives, opening entirely new areas of investigation, and providing new information about Whitman’s and Dickinson’s lives, work, and reception.
Essays included in this book cover the topics of mentoring influence on each poet, religion, the Civil War, phenomenology, the environment, humor, poetic structures of language, and Whitman’s and Dickinson’s twentieth- and twenty-first–century reception—including prolonged engagement with Adrienne Rich’s response to this “strange uncoupled couple” of poets who stand at the beginning of an American national poetic.
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were not the poetic stars of their day; only a few friends knew that Dickinson wrote, and Whitman’s following was minuscule, if influential. But the contemporaries who eclipsed these major poets now have largely disappeared from our literary landscape.
In this distinctive anthology, Robert Bain gathers together thirteen other scholars to re-present the poetry of these former luminaries, allowing readers to rediscover them, reconstruct the poetic contexts of their age, and better understand why Whitman and Dickinson now overshadow other poets of their time.
Arranged chronologically according to the birth dates of the poets, this anthology introduces each poet’s work, providing biographical information and discussing the major forms and themes of the work. Each introduction places the poet in a literary and historical context with Whitman and Dickinson and provides a bibliography of secondary sources.
This remarkable book recovers a part of our literary heritage that has been lost.
In this study, Paul Crumbley asserts that, contrary to popular opinion, Emily Dickinson consistently communicated political views through her poetry. Dickinson’s life of self-isolation—today her most notable personal characteristic—by no means extended into the political sphere, he argues. While she rarely addressed political issues directly and was curiously disengaged from the liberal causes and female reform movements of her time, Dickinson’s poems are deeply rooted both in matters of personal sovereignty and reader choice. The significant choices Dickinson extends to the reader underscore the democratic dimensions of reading her work, and of reading itself as a political act.
Crumbley employs close readings of Dickinson’s poems and letters, highlighting the many changing—and often contradictory—voices in her work, both throughout her oeuvre and in individual poems themselves. In Dickinson’s letters Crumbley finds just as many unique and conflicting voices; thus, both her personal correspondence and the poems make political demands by placing the burden of interpretation on the reader.
Rather than reflecting explicit political values, Dickinson’s work chronicles an ongoing decision-making process that magnifies the role of individual choice, not the advocacy of specific outcomes. In the end, Dickinson’s readers must either accept an isolated lyric subjectivity or invest that subjectivity with the substance necessary for engagement with the larger world.
Although Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson differed dramatically in terms of their lives and writing careers, they shared not only a distaste for writing “for the street” (mass readership) but a preference for the intimate writer–reader relationship created by private publication, especially in the form of manuscripts. In Writing for the Street, Writing in the Garret: Melville, Dickinson, and Private Publication, Michael Kearns shows that this distaste and preference were influenced by American copyright law, by a growing tendency in America to treat not only publications but their authors as commodities, and by the romantic stereotype of the artist (usually suffering in a garret) living only for her or his own work.
For both Melville and Dickinson, private publication could generate the prestige accorded to authors while preserving ownership of both works and self. That they desired such prestige Kearns demonstrates by a close reading of biographical details, publication histories, and specific comments on authorship and fame. This information also reveals that Melville and Dickinson regarded their manuscripts as physical extensions of themselves while creating personae to protect the privacy of those selves. Much modern discourse about both writers has accepted as biographical fact certain elements of those personae, especially that they were misunderstood artists metaphorically confined to garrets.