table of contents
about the archives
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ARCHIVE (1997)
Continuing the work of examining the extent to which the poem as printed object has shaped the interpretation, circulation, reputation, and transmission of Emily Dickinson's writings and of how reconceiving them as scribal objects profoundly alters one's experience of her literary presentations is a general way of describing the ambitions of the Dickinson Electronic Archives project; included in the project's goals, then, is the study of Dickinson's "domestic" or manuscript publication (as her circulation of writings by hand is made virtually available) and its translation into print and dissemination via mechanical reproduction. Formed in 1992 after the first Emily Dickinson International Society conference, the Dickinson Editing Collective (Coordinator, Smith; General Editors, Hart & Werner) has embarked on this project of making her writings available in production performances that digitize images of her manuscripts and provide diplomatic transcriptions and notes in searchable electronic form, thereby enabling new kinds of critical inquiry previously unimaginable within the constraints of the book, the machine that has made the object, "Dickinson poem," and that has determined how that object is seen, interrogated, and theorized. Until 1981, the geography of the Dickinson poem was by and large received as typographic, yet for Dickinson, who produced and circulated her work in manuscript, her writings' geographies became holographic.
Somewhat ironically, the ever-changing material reproductions--printing after printing of Dickinson's poems, letters, and letter-poems in book after book--demonstrate what the poet herself avers explaining to prominent editor Thomas Higginson that she is not publishing her work in the conventional way. When Emily Dickinson wrote Higginson "I had told you I did not print," she enclosed a clipping of "The Snake," the version of "A narrow Fellow in / the Grass" which had appeared in the Springfield Republican, to demonstrate her reasons for choosing not to do so. She comments on the printed version: "Lest you meet my Snake and suppose I deceive it was robbed of me - defeated too of the third line by the punctuation. The third and fourth were one - I had told you I did not print - I feared you might think me ostensible" (BPL Higg 59; L 316). She appears angry because editors, presuming to know how the poem should be punctuated, inserted a punctuation mark (a question mark in the weekly Republican's printing and a comma in the daily) that she had purposely omitted. By 1866 she had seen at least ten, very probably more, of her poems in print, and in most of the printings she had seen alterations of her poems. According to her, such editorial interference "defeated" her poetic objectives and dissuaded her from conventional publication via mechanical reproduction (Rowing 11-18). And, the record shows that her circulation of her writings in manuscript was to a wide range of readers (from the eminent professional man of letters Higginson to unknown neighbors to the household servant Maher).
A century ago, when Dickinson's writings were first translated into a format by which they could be distributed to the reading public, her holographic productions were reimagined by editors as print objects (and thus circulated by mechanical, capital-driven means). In the 1890s and through the first eight decades of the twentieth century, then, "Dickinson poems" were circulated via six volumes edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, Thomas Higginson, and/or Millicent Todd Bingham, eight volumes edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson, and six volumes edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Thus for the first century of public exposure, Dickinson's writings were made visible as typographical entities. The publication of Franklin's The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (1981), however, made Dickinson's manuscript page and her holographic performances visible again via superb halftone photographic reproductions. Dickinson's textual world, conceived for decades in terms of the typographical page, began to be reconceived in terms of her handwritten artifacts. The Manuscript Books directed critical attention primarily toward the fascicles (books Dickinson made and left for posterity), but that is but one textual body among several corpora of Dickinson's writings. All must be studied in order to understand Dickinson's poetic objectives and artistic manipulations of writing technologies. Franklin's work inspired reexamination of all of her scriptures, within and beyond the fascicles--epistolary, fragmentary, and mixed media (featuring cutouts, drawings)--and thereby reimagination of her literary project as what it in fact was, an astonishingly energetic and ambitious creative endeavor not bound to and by the book and print technology's presentation of literature.
Introducing and arguing for Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing, a presentation of the poet's late (post-1870) scraps and fragments, Marta Werner calls for "unediting" Dickinson's writings, for "constellating these works not as still points of meaning or as incorruptible texts but, rather, as events and phenomena of freedom" (5). Werner's call pertains to particular documents composed by a middle-aged poet, but her driving principle extends to all of Dickinson's writing. Indeed, to evaluate Dickinson's process and ambitions as a writer--a "private" producer of lyrics, poetic epistles, mixed media layouts, epigrams, and drafts, who apparently had "public" ambitions--all her writings need to be reimagined outside the print translations that have seen the literary forms of her writerly work as entities that fit comfortably into the genres designated by the books, The Poems of Emily Dickinson and The Letters of Emily Dickinson. To do so, or to "undo" so, requires that readers unedit a century's critical receptions to recuperate a sense of the state or the groups in which Emily Dickinson herself left her documents"--individual correspondences, the manuscript volumes, and ungathered poems and drafts" (Hart 45). Cultivating such a sense requires reimagining (in the various forms that Dickinson conceived and left them) the writings that have been known and studied for the past century as the literary objects "poem," "letter," and "prose fragment," and thus have been examined through print- and codex-determined genres and in typographical translation that erases the widely varying holographic nuances and designs, flattening Dickinson's visually expressive scriptures into regularized typography.
In order to facilitate such a reconceptualization of Dickinson's textual world even further, the Dickinson Editing Collective is producing online and other digital projects that constitute representations of Emily Dickinson's writings that take Dickinson's manuscript "art--her rigor--of 'choosing not choosing'" (Werner 3, q. Cameron 24) as an important field of study. Having "concluded that, in addition to" Franklin's variorum, "a hypermedia archive of Dickinson's writings should be produced in order to take into account her method of publication and more fully disseminate the range of her manuscript art" and documentation of her writing processes to her readers (Smith 77), one of the Collective's primary goals for the electronic archives is to open up access for examining Emily Dickinson's writing practices. Highlighting her scribal publication, the Dickinson Electronic Archives present her writings according to her methods of distribution and thus are organized into epistolary corpora--Emily Dickinson's Correspondences.
As advancements in photography and production enabled Franklin to reproduce his reassembly of Dickinson's manuscript books, new technologies such as hypermedia enable readers to consider her writings in a wider variety of contexts, to examine contrasting representations simultaneously on the same screen, to contemplate multiplicities of orders and trajectories, to study research materials from numerous books and special collections on the same screen and without damaging the original documents via more direct handling. Presenting photographic reproductions and diplomatic transcriptions of these writings in electronic format has numerous advantages for expanding access. Besides searchability, making information more readily retrievable and manipulable, itself a resource of inestimable value, full color display of the manuscripts on the computer screen makes visible paste marks, stains, pinholes, and gradations between pencil and pen that are muted and often indistinguishable in the monochromatic halftones in books. Also visible are serendipitous technological artifacts making certain elements, the edges of the page, e.g., more clearly articulated (halftone reproduction tends to cut off page edges, sometimes making margins appear smaller than they in fact are). Thus many more elements of Dickinson's writing project and its technologies, of the holographic artifacts Dickinson bequeathed to the world, get to be seen by many more readers via production performances in the electronic medium, a powerful tool for helping readers to reconceptualize the texts beyond the "Alabaster Chamber" of the printed page.
These electronic production performances of Dickinson's writings will serve as invaluable aids for scholars interested in theorizing about Dickinson's overall management--composition, storage, assimilation, dissemination--of texts. In an archive such as this one, photographic reproductions and publication histories of all the Dickinson documents are being made available in order to analyze more thoroughly advantages and opportunities as well as problems and limitations of translating the poet's handwritten works into print and into electronic forms.
Though she did not then imagine an electronic archive, Smith conceived and proposed a project to edit the correspondences by addressee, as if each forum to an individual audience in effect constituted a "book" bound by Dickinson's particular attentions, in her dissertation a decade ago (Rutgers 1985; Rowing in Eden 86-92). This undoing, this "unediting" is, of course, in one sense a proposal to bring editing Dickinson full circle: Johnson "was the first editor to publish texts that previous editors called letters' as poems but not also as letters, initiating the still dominant pattern of separating Dickinson's writing by genre, rather than providing ways of reading texts in their original manuscript groups" (Hart 45). Yet disseminating these individual correspondences as "books" unto themselves, restoring therefore Dickinson's original manuscript groups to as great extent as possible, did not seem practical until we began to envision the hypermedia archive. These forms for presentation and this plan of development are, therefore, results of careful scholarship over the past fifteen years (by others as well as by we three), and the insights gleaned from an array of methodical examinations, reexaminations, testing hypotheses and subsequent reformulations.
While Werner has produced an electronic archive examining Dickinson's "late scraps" (around 4% of the writings Dickinson left behind and less than 2% of what she "published" to her contemporaries), and Hart and Smith are producing the section consisting of the many writings to and by Susan (about 35% of the writings that Dickinson "published" to her contemporaries), we, as the Dickinson Editing Collective, have decided that the other correspondences will be edited collaboratively, with one of us or a guest coeditor (listed below) serving as the coordinator of each particular correspondence. Each of these guest coeditors has been selected because of her expertise in a particular area. The initial electronic archive projects (the online presentations of Radical Scatters and Correspondence with Susan Dickinson) are developing DTDs and scanning procedures that can be used for all other documents that we plan to include in subsequent digital production performances.
The textual body, Dickinson's manuscripts, is a powerful witness to the importance of Susan's entanglements in Emily's compositional and distribution practices. Though not professionally engaged as such, Susan was a committed writer and, for Emily, a committed audience, serving as mentor and sounding board. Susan conducted her own writing business in a professional manner, contributing articles, poems, stories, and memorials to the Republican, corresponding with leading editors, and maintaining journals, scrapbooks, and commonplace books throughout her adulthood. Dedicated to literature, Susan declared, "poetry is my sermon - my hope - my solace - my life." Susan and Emily's earliest exchanges show that writing and reading were primary occupations of both women and that sharing their writings and readings was primary to their relationship. Indeed, every contemporary who knew Emily Dickinson knew that she was a writer, and Susan's wide and "hard reading" (1863 letter from Samuel Bowles to Austin Dickinson) was likewise well-known. And at least one close friend, editor Bowles, acknowledged their writing together--to Sue he writes, "Speaking of writing, do you & Emily give us some gems for the Springfield Musket,' & then come to the Fair" (1862 letter)--and Emily's earliest letters to Sue revel in dreams of their linguistic coition.
Though these writings to Susan testify to intimate involvement with and promotion of Emily Dickinson's writing even after the poet's death (Rowing in Eden 206-220), and though they constitute one of two major corpora of Dickinson writings bequeathed to posterity (400-500 documents to Susan; the more than 800 poems in the fascicles constitute the other major archive), they have, until recently, been practically ignored, and, when treated at all are usually regarded as "mere biography." Thus as Dickinson's writing project reveals the limitations of twentieth-century theoretical inventions that equate "public" with print and "private" with manuscript, so study of Susan and Emily's writing habit calls into question the limitations of false theoretical distinctions between textual studies and biography. Documenting this decades-long literary exchange and friendship with Emily Dickinson, Correspondence with Susan Dickinson provides readers with the opportunity to study the relevant materials and decide for themselves how and to what extent this relationship is important, even integral, to Dickinson's literary project.
In order to give readers an even more full sense of Dickinson's writing environs, Correspondence with Susan Dickinson will feature a wider range of materials than Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which is focused on selecting particular highlights from the four decades of writing in order to tell this fascinating story of a literary liaison most aptly compared to that of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Following Susan Dickinson's methods for storage and showcasing Emily Dickinson's work, Open Me Carefully is a production performance modelled on Susan's scrapbooks. In complementary contrast to the presentation of selected documents in Open Me Carefully, the digital resource Correspondence with Susan Dickinson presents facsimiles and typographic translations of each and all of Emily's known writings to and about Susan and Susan's to and about Emily (e.g., writings from Susan to editors about the literary project about which both women enthused, as well as poems by Susan echoing Emily's work, and her Springfield Republican review essays in which she cites Emily as a literary authority). Also featured in Writings by Susan Dickinson are other reviews, poetry, recipes, and stories by Susan (some printed in the Springfield Republican; these late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century materials are newly recovered from the Evergreens, Susan & Austin's house, and have not been previously available to Dickinson scholars). Because letters in the previous century were often communal and not simply personal affairs, and because so many of the letters to immediate family are also either about or to Susan, this section of the archive also features Emily's letters and poems to her brother Austin (Susan's husband) (91 documents; plus 1 to Austin's close friend George Gould); Emily's letters to Austin and Susan's children Ned (30), Mattie (8; plus 2 to Mattie's lifelong friend, Sara Colton Gillett), and Gib (5; plus 3 to Gib's friend, Kendall Emerson, written after Gib's death); letters to Emily and Austin's sister Lavinia (8); letters to Susan's sister Martha Gilbert Smith (5); letter to Susan's brother Thomas Dwight Gilbert (1); letters to their mutual friend (and erotic interest) Kate Scott Turner Anthon (8); photographs and floor plans of the Homestead and the Evergreens and of their gardens.
The seven bodies of material are as follows:
As is clear from the description above, we think assembly and organization of the Dickinson documents should be correspondence by correspondence (thus one link among documents will be those Dickinson addressed to a particular contemporary audience), but we intend to exploit fully the hypertextual organization of the Archive. Every document will be imbedded in a complex network of related documents and materials. Every poem, letter-poem, or letter will be linked to the correspondence in which Dickinson first placed it, as well as to the printed volume(s) into which it has been translated by editors working directly from the manuscripts, as well as to Dickinson's reproductions of lines in diverse contexts.
Plans for the website in the near future include: a sampler devoted to dialogic editing in which users experiment with making and unmaking "Dickinson poems" ("Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem" will feature such a component); a webchat about "Poems by Susan Dickinson" (noted above), and whether they are indeed especially resonant with well-known poems by Emily, and what that might mean for conceptions and idealizations of the author, her literary project, literary history, critical understanding, etc.; an essay and panel discussion as well as a webchat about "Dickinson Forgeries," beginning with the one unmasked summer 1997 but also examining those apparently made by Mabel Loomis Todd; development of the Titanic Operas section of the site, beginning with a lengthy interview with Alicia Ostriker and sound clips of her reading Dickinson's work; and an essay and webchat on "Dickinson's Writings and Copyright." More long-term plans involve using VRML to enable users to simulate working at Dickinson's desk or in her kitchen (a room in which she frequently wrote) or to simulate touring the rooms of the Dickinson houses, the Homestead and the Evergreens, or nineteenth-century Amherst (this VRML development will be similar to that presently available as part of the Rossetti archive). Already in use by college and high school teachers among whom its strategies are being tested, this web site is thus intended to develop audiences for the electronic archives and is also offered as a service to teaching communities. Making some work of the poet who complained that "Publication - is the Auction" free and accessible for each and every web browser is more than in order.
The samplers presently available are marked up in HTML but, working with John Unsworth, Daniel Pitti, and others at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia (IATH, where the Dickinson Editing Collective holds a Networked Associate Fellowship), with Betty Day, Head of the University of Maryland's Electronic Text Center, and with Jamie Spriggs, computing consultant for the College of Arts & Humanities at UMCP, we are developing SGML (TEI), using the DTDs that Werner, working with John Price-Wilkin and Chris Powell at the Collaboratory at the University of Michigan, developed in summer 1996, as a model. IATH has established email@example.com, a private, unmoderated list to facilitate discussion among Day, Hart, McGann, Pitti, Powell, Price-Wilkin, Smith, Unsworth, Werner and the graduate assistants who are the core group developing markup and scanning procedures for the electronic archives. Also, listed on the opening screen of the website are the names of our Advisory Board, a group of scholars, poets, web authors, listserv managers, and general readers especially interested in electronic distribution of research and literary materials and who serve in a variety of capacities (advising us on issues of markup, organization, quality of raw materials, etc.).
Other guest coeditors working in areas that span correspondences include: Karen Dandurand, who will supervise representations of printings of her poems during Dickinson's lifetime; Elizabeth Hewitt, who will assist on early sentimental letters (e.g., to Abiah Root, Emily Fowler, Susan Gilbert); and Elizabeth Petrino, who will assist on letters to children, particularly elegiac forms and letters of consolation (e.g., to Kendall Emerson after little Gib's death). Elizabeth Horan will contribute to discussions of copyright and issues between Dickinson Bianchi & Hampson and Loomis Todd & Bingham.
Archives of each and all of the correspondences are interactive with one another. Correspondence with Susan Dickinson features poems, letters, and letter-poems that show Dickinson using the trace fragments in Radical Scatters (a letter-poem written after the death of young nephew Gib extends the fragment "Twice when I had red flowers out"; A 287, L 938n; there are numerous other instances). Similarly, other sections of Emily Dickinson's Correspondences feature poems, letters, and letter-poems showing Dickinson using trace fragments (in writings to Samuel Bowles the younger and Sarah Tuckerman, e.g.). These archives also show Dickinson's presentation of different versions of a poem to various readers. Quite a number of poems were sent to two or more different audiences ("Safe in their Alabaster Chambers," the subject of the sampler "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem," is such an instance), and the archives will enable readers to compare varying presentations as the poem is performed for different audiences. Thus studies of audience and Dickinson's contemporaneous interactions with her readers will be profoundly enhanced, for users can more easily and variously compare her presentations to various audiences (from children and housewives to prominent editors); e.g., in the electronic archives her two major "literary" correspondences--the writings to Susan and the writings to Thomas Higginson--can be interrogated in much greater detail than previously possible and than would be possible in facsimile editions (where flipping of pages and shifting piles of books would be inhibitive).
Emily Dickinson's Correspondences will include links from each poem sent to Susan or to a particular correspondent to any other version of the poem in the manuscript volumes or in another correspondence and will thereby facilitate comparative study of the manuscript groupings. "Fascicle" study will therefore be advanced, for audiences will be able to see and critically compare what was in the manuscript volumes to what was also sent out in a letter. Undoubtedly, profound understandings of Dickinson's writing practices and of her writings' textual situations are already being and will continue to be enabled by this new research tool, which completely reorganizes study of the Dickinson materials according to her methods of production and presentation rather than according to conventional conceptions of genre for bookmaking (i.e., "poem" or "letter"). What George Bornstein has called "contextual codes" will no longer be disguised or erased through presentation in the printed book, and users will be able to investigate much more thoroughly both micro (lineation, calligraphic orthography, punctuation) and macro (distribution and circulation) elements of Emily Dickinson's writing project and decide for themselves whether and to what extent the marks and circulation practices are significant.
Another standard concern voiced about the effects of digital resources on reading practices is the status of books in the electronic age. Electronic editions will enhance, not lessen, the value of print editions. Electronic editions appeal to the same constituency as does the variorum, as well as to larger constituencies. The scholarly reader, by the nature of her mission a completist, will rely on each variorum and scholarly volume produced (by Johnson in 1955 and by Franklin in the 1990s), as well as on all previous editions (by Loomis Todd & Higginson, Dickinson Bianchi & Hampson, Bingham, Sewall), and on the new editions in electronic format. And, the electronic editions will appeal to general readers interested in Dickinson's manuscripts, to readers interested in artistic process, to readers interested in historical documents, to readers interested in holographic records of writers, to readers interested in nineteenth-century literary culture. The World Wide Web offers opportunities to cultivate readers who might otherwise not be exposed to the work of this nineteenth-century American poet. More than three hundred users contribute regularly to three different online discussion groups devoted to Emily Dickinson (firstname.lastname@example.org, DICKNSON@LISTSERV.UTA.EDU, and EmMail1@aol.com) and there are already thirteen different web sites devoted to this beloved American poet. These users come from all walks of life, and the calls for CD-ROMs making her works, and particularly her manuscripts (poems, letters, letter-poems, cutouts, scraps, fragments), more widely available are frequent.
By making all these archival materials available to such a wide range of readers, information usually reserved for a few "experts" can be examined by many. These new sophistications presenting Dickinson's writings will surely result in new sophistications in reader's strategies, and experts will greatly benefit (both in ways that can now be imagined as well as in ways that are not yet imaginable) from many readers bringing questions and especial interests to examination of documents previously accessible for only a few. In other words, this redistribution and wider circulation of information that helps constitute expertise will profoundly reinflect scholarship as a multitude of critical intelligences can be brought to bear on questions previously the province of an exclusively informed few. The advantages of this for audience development as well as for scholarship are inestimable.
Martha Nell Smith, Univ. of Maryland
Ellen Louise Hart, Univ. of California at Santa Cruz
Marta Werner, Poetry/Rare Books Collection, SUNY-Buffalo
Cameron, Sharon. Choosing Not Choosing: Dickinson's Fascicles. Chicago & London: U of Chicago P, 1992.
Dickinson, Emily. Various Writings. References to manuscripts will use the initials "A" (Amherst College), "BPL" (Boston Public Library), "H" (Houghton Library, Harvard University) and the library catalog number. References will also include the Harvard University Press printings by Johnson and Franklin.
Franklin, R.W., "Emily Dickinson to Abiah Root: Ten Reconstructed Letters." The Emily Dickinson Journal IV.1 (1995): 1-43. http://www.colorado.edu/EDIS/journal/articles/IV.1.Franklin.html.
---, ed. The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge & London: The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1981. References to this edition will use "F" or "Set" and the fascicles or set number assigned by Franklin.
---, ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition. Cambridge, MA, and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998. Poems in this edition will be cited by "FP" and the number assigned by Franklin.
Hart, Ellen Louise. "The Elizabeth Whitney Putnam Manuscripts and New Strategies for Editing Emily Dickinson's Letters." The Emily Dickinson Journal IV.1 (1995): 44-74. http://www.colorado.edu/EDIS/journal/articles/IV.1.Hart.html.
---, and Martha Nell Smith, eds. Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson. Ashfield, MA: Paris Press, 1998. Poems in this edition will be cited by "OMC" and the number assigned by Hart and Smith.
Johnson, Thomas H., ed. The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge & London: The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1958. References to letters in this edition will use "L" and the number assigned by Johnson.
---, ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge & London: The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1955. References to poems in this edition will use "P" and the number assigned by Johnson.
McGann, Jerome. "The Book as a Machine of Knowledge" in "The Rationale of HyperText." General Publications of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (last modified May 6, 1995): par. 5-14, online. http://www.iath.virginia.edu/generalpubs.html.
Meyerson, Joel. Emily Dickinson: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1984.
Smith, Martha Nell. "Corporealizations of Dickinson and Interpretive Machines." The Iconic Page in Manuscript, Print, and Digital Culture, ed. George Bornstein & Theresa Tinkle. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997.
---. "The Importance of a Hypermedia Archive of Dickinson's Creative Work." The Emily Dickinson Journal IV.1 (1995): 75-85. http://www.colorado.edu/EDIS/journal/articles/IV.1.Smith.html.
---. Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson. Austin: U of Texas P, 1992.
Werner, Marta. Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.
---. Radical Scatters: An Electronic Archive of Emily Dickinson's Late Fragments (U of Michigan P, 1999).
Copyright 1994 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Rebecca Mooney <email@example.com>