Martha Nell Smith
"Rowing in Eden: Reading Dickinson Reading"
Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. 50-95, 232-238.
I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
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Whether consciously considered or not, conceptions of authorial intention inform critical stories of reading, and formulations in the genealogy of Dickinson study are no exception. After discussing why Dickinson's phrase "Rowing in Eden" is appropriate to name new modes of reading and different attitudes toward poetic valuations inspired by the poet's holograph productions, the second part of this chapter interrogates speculations about her intentionalities and their relationships to literary and intellectual property, while the third section outlines some strategies for reading Dickinson anew.
Texts and Territories
Geographical and cartographical metaphors of exploration have for obvious and much discussed reasons been important to New World literature and consciousness and are, not surprisingly, often highlighted in Dickinson's works.1 Therefore, such a metaphor is especially useful to describe the "new world" opened by new methods for reading devised from studying Dickinson's holograph productions. That "Rowing in Eden"-a phrase from what is widely regarded to be Dickinson's most erotic poem-christens this approach is most fitting since these procedures parallel her activities as reader. Since "Wild Nights - Wild Nights!" (F 11; P 249) couples the sexual with the textual, the lyric's penultimate phrase connotes both action and place in erotic context. While the action is smooth and rhythmic, the place is the site (in Judeo-Christian mythology) of humanity's Mother's seduction and the consequent great Fall into knowledge and sin. Since, like assumptions about Sappho's homosexual or heterosexual desire which presuppose interpretations of the Greek's lyrics, assumptions[---End p. 51---]
about her womanhood or her sexual desires often color interpretations of Dickinson's writings, the phrase is at least doubly appropriate.2
To row, one must expend energy, extend muscle. Neither an especially contentious nor combative activity (here I do not concern myself with the competition of crews but with the strokes in which they are engaged), rowing nevertheless strains muscles. Like the study of reading, rowing, which can be enacted in the privacy of one's garret with a machine or solitarily in a single-seat kayak or canoe, is also often performed in concert with others. A feat of coordination, even the struggle to row is a relatively peaceful, if strenuous, exercise and an apt metaphor for depicting exchanges Dickinson herself appears to imagine between texts and readers. What the manuscripts tell us about her as a reader suggests that Dickinson expected anything but passivity from her audience. In Roland Barthes' terms, she wanted to inspire readers to be coproducers of texts, "methodological fields" which can be "experienced only in an activity of production" (an act of interpretation), not mere consumers of works, artifacts, or "fragment(s) of substance, occupying a part of the space of books (in a library for example)." Her poems are, then, always what he would call writerly, oriented toward their futures with readers.3 That she did not regard works as untouchably sacred is obvious from her own role as reader, for Dickinson sometimes went so far as to cut up others' works to take an illustration or group of words to append her own. Unlike the mutilations to her poems and letters, this is not an angry or hostile act to excise offensive expressions, but a sign of a reader at play or engaged in dialogic drama, combining hers with others' literary productions, remaking both in the process. Nor is this a crude example of the readers Harold Bloom envisions always at war with texts, at best producing strong misreadings. Comparing the author's work of choosing words to quilting, Cristanne Miller muses that "Dickinson's poems are short, often nonlinear and fluid in form," revealing "a consciousness that without anxiety knows itself to be incapable of complete control" as she pieces together fragments of meaning.4 This just as well applies to the fact of Dickinson's awareness that she is not in control of reader's responses. Imagining readers who interact with works to produce texts, this consciousness does not put anxiety over or battles for meaning center stage, but spotlights the meaning-producing processes of give and take between author and text, text and reader, reader and author, inevitable in reading.
Certainly Dickinson's punctuation marks, "dashes" which have inspired so many debates among critics and editors, suggest an author who expects readers, who must decide whether to regard the marks as substan-
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tive or accidental, to engage in textual production and in effect become co-authors. And when Dickinson describes a reading process in her question "Did you ever read one of her Poems backward, because the plunge from the front overturned you?" (PF 30), she does not portray such reading against conventional instructions as a violation. On the contrary, such reading, certainly a movement "from one condition of knowledge to another," seems an almost ecstatic engagement in search of sense.5 Like Gwendolyn Brooks talking about one of her most famous poems, "The Mother," the interpretation of which resists resolution, Dickinson, hyperconscious of a pen's many inflections (L 470) and a pencil's "awful power" (L 656), is well aware that readers will "take from the poems what they need." Pulling "text from text," "forcing, abbreviating, pushing, padding, subtracting, riddling, interrogating, re-writing," Dickinson takes from others' words what she needs to make a point more "clear" (L 265) or to manufacture a "cartooning" layout.6 On the surface of things, this may seem inconsistent with, in fact contradictory to, impulses of the principled writer who complained about editorial addition of a punctuation mark. But an editor laboring over a text to make a work for mass reproduction is in a very different position than the common reader, and while Dickinson objects to editors unnecessarily making decisions for readers, she, embracing the inevitable, invites readers to make decisions for themselves. Her manuscripts, with multiple variants and variant punctuation and line breaks, will not let us forget that reading is dialogic drama, always a matter of editing, of choosing what to privilege, what to subordinate. Her consternation toward editorial intervention is at the rather imperious addition of a question mark or comma and the fact that, sealed into print, such changes preempt and circumscribe subsequent readers' choices, which poets like Brooks and Dickinson expect and, by their indeterminate texts, demand.
In sharp contrast to critics or poets who present poems as objects for the initiated, a holy literary priesthood fond of exclusionary poetic politics which pretend to be no politics at all, these American women writers, so different from each other in race, cultural setting, and writerly choices, share an impulse "to define" a poetic "identity which is not merely personal but communal." As Alicia Ostriker has observed, "this impulse commonly extends itself toward the poem's audience, in poems created to function not as closed artifacts but as personal transactions between poets and readers."7 For example, by making the reader's authorship-connecting variants to places in lines and diacritical marks to meanings suggested by the words and spaces around them-an integral component of the plea-
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sure of reading her texts, Dickinson's project challenges rigid self-other boundaries as the prerogatives and roles of reader and writer mingle. Thus the ways in which Dickinson seeks to involve readers differs markedly from the strategies of a Pound or Eliot who calls upon esoteric or highbrow knowledge to interpret his poem "correctly." While their exclusionary objectives stress "literary traditions in large part the creation of writers who have unapologetically identified themselves as male, patriarchal, and patriotic" to the point of valorizing those with the most such knowledge, Dickinson seems more concerned to involve even the most common of readers by offering a different kind of field for perusal and play, one which privileges reader participation and hard work by which "each and all" may acquire knowledge rather than elitist keys to understanding held by those already "properly" educated.8 The "rowing" or exchanges among poet, text, and reader emphasized by Dickinson's productions are constitutive parts of the site of reading. Besides her own actions as reader, her commentary on textual transmission shows that she does not consider the reader an outsider to the work (a world already made), but a vital part of a textual world perpetually Edenic as it is continually remade with every reading.
Though paradisiacal, Eden is a rather demanding, if rewarding, place to be and a poignant metaphor for this textual terrain. Of the imagination, this literary place cannot be owned, nor can it be assumed without the reader's participation. Confronted with a New World indeed, their "horizon of expectations" prefiguring reception, her first editors finished and produced works to regularize Dickinson's poetry so that it would conform both in form and content to literary customs and at least some of "the styles and cliches of Atlantic coast magazines."9 In the turn from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries, many literati, Higginson included, still looked askance at Whitman, whose public revisions and generative printings of Leaves of Grass underscored the organicism, development, and continual extension of the work into text. Thus, a product of a critical blindness to the possibility that "unfinished" manuscript works were Dickinson's call to participatory reading which also recognized the text constantly extending itself, the impulse to "complete" her texts appeared unassailably proper. After a century, the new horizons of expectations demanded by her holograph works, which by their variants externalize the facts "that every current horizon gives way to new horizons as one moves along or travels" and that "the producer is always a recipient as soon as he begins to write," still do not have general currency among Dickinson scholars.10 Yet the last quarter century, inaugurated by Franklin's The Editing of Emily Dickinson
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and Edith Wylder's often overlooked and misunderstood postulations about the slanted dashes in The Last Face: Emily Dickinson's Manuscripts, and highlighted by publication of the Manuscript Books and Master Letters, laid the foundation for altering our aesthetic norms. Instead of perpetuating the cycle of study usually focused on her works in typeface translation, texts in which odd signs like slanted dashes are altered to conform to ruling standards of taste, we are prepared to step out of the critical circumference and into new, Edenic modes of appreciation and interpretation of the holographs.
Dickinson's conjoining sexual and intellectual significance in the symbolic Eden appropriately conveys our involvement with her texts, which Barthes would say are bound to jouissance (joy, bliss, delight-all feelings identified with loving). In a letter to Kate Anthon, Dickinson herself identifies rowing with loving-"I am pleasantly located in the deep sea, but love will row you out if her hands are strong" (L 209, late 1859?)-and Dickinson's use of Eden has most recently been discussed in terms of its erotic connotations. As William H. Shurr notes, "Come slowly - Eden!" (F 10; P 211), "Did the Harebell loose her girdle" (P 213), and "Wild Nights - Wild Nights!" all argue for Eden "as the paradise of sexual security and enjoyment."11 Yet interpretations to explain what Dickinson meant by "Eden" which posit that she, in one way or another and to one degree or another, refers to a state of mind are also buttressed by her writing.12 In a letter to close friend Elizabeth Holland, Dickinson reports that "Vinnie says you are most illustrious and dwell in Paradise. I have never believed the latter to be a superhuman site. Eden, always eligible, is peculiarly so this noon" (L 391, summer 1873). Obviously, Eden is in the eye of the beholder, or, to elaborate the metaphor, in the eye of the reader. As Barthes elucidates the emotional appeal of reading with a deconstructive sensibility consciously involved in textual production, so Dickinson's account of reading another woman poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, emphasizes the erotics of reading: "The Dark - felt beautiful," and the reader no longer passively surveys the world around her, but reads it as a text, producing a new transformative world in which "The Bees" become "Butterflies" and "The Butterflies," "Swans" (F 29; P 593).
For my purposes, then, this garden of Genesis describes a state of mind that is both receptive to novel experience and willing to expend energy acquiring it, acknowledging all the while the erotic and emotional appeals of reading; and rowing characterizes the dynamic processes between the author and her readers, since both parties work to produce texts. Thus Dickinson's poems and letters are not static objects, works demand-
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ing passive consumption, but are frontiers to be explored and cultivated, places bustling with activity (since without readers the texts are nowhere). Paradoxically, readers continually both find and make these sites of reading. To put it in contemporary popular culture terms and play a bit on the trope of literary work as musical score, each reader performs her own "dance mix" of a Dickinson text. The maker of a "dance mix" remixes contemporary pop hits-"radically restructuring each composition at the studio console, dismantling some sections of a song to its skeleton, doubling other parts, stretching and extending and bending the record into a danceable commentary on itself."13 In explication each reader is a textual producer, restructuring, dismantling, and reassembling, and in the process consciously or unconsciously comments on her own activity; with the material copy of the poem existing before intervention always available, on her field of textual play the work also turns into a commentary on itself.
"Whoever you are holding me now in hand" (to borrow from Whitman's "Calamus") need not suppose a return to the confusion of the Tower of Babel or textual anarchy, an ascent or descent into a world where each solipsistically utters unintelligible glossolalia, the speaking in tongues "inaccessible to the general congregation" and "foreign to the known tongues of humankind."14 Remembering heteroglossia, or "the ability to speak in the multiple languages of public discourse," neither appealing to the Foucauldian notion of "anonymous discourse," nor concluding with Barthes that the cost of the birth of the reader must be the death of the author is quite sufficient to critique Dickinson's challenge to and project for readers. As Tania Modleski, Nancy K. Miller, and Biddy Martin have rightly pointed out, for women to forswear or play with the idea of relinquishing authorial power they have traditionally been denied is a quite different matter than for men to do so. And Emily Dickinson was no "white brain writing alone in a white room," but an author who sowed her works in the fields of unknown and famous contemporary readers and who planted her carefully assembled books where they were sure to be discovered.15
Forcing us to rethink our critical methods, interrogate her intentions as well as our own, and even to theorize about authorship, Dickinson's poetic and epistolary holographs, like critical hypotheses and debates, repeatedly remind us that issues of control are always central to reading. When tracing developments and some inconsistencies in reader-response criticism, Jonathan Culler notes a pertinent paradox: "The more a theory stresses the reader's freedom, control, and constitutive activity, the more likely it is to lead to stories of dramatic encounters and surprises
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which portray reading as a process of discovery." Using the process by which a joke works as an exemplary text, he notes that "the listener is essential to the joke, for unless the listener laughs, the joke is not a joke." But "the listener does not control the outburst of laughter: the text provokes it (the joke, one says, made me laugh)."16 In her apparently "unfinished" productions, Dickinson acknowledges that control is dynamic and temporal. Yet in the first hundred years of studying her, patterns of control over interpretations established through "authoritative" representations finished for print and critical speculations time and again appeal to Dickinson's intentions in order to legitimate and entrench themselves.
Though determining authorial intention raises problems and issues that can never be completely resolved and part of the appeal of applying unrevised Foucault or Derrida is surely the opportunity to dispense with questions for which there are no absolute answers, considering the preferences inscribed in her texts in light of our preconceptions is a crucial critical endeavor. Observing Paul de Man's admission that "the deconstructive impulse is sometimes defeated by an intentionalism built into the very structure of our languages," Annabel Patterson writes that, after the "death of the author" and subsequent conjectures that rumors of such a demise may be considerably exaggerated, on the subject of intention "we are not required to be regulatory."17 Likewise, speculating about Dickinson's intentions, we need not be regulatory and draw inflexible conclusions circumscribing her desires or literary experimentations, but, aware that our horizons of expectations are predetermined by standard histories and literary traditions, should consciously cultivate horizonal change. More than a century ago, Dickinson produced works that call all our modes of textual regulation into question and remind us, as do the tenets of contemporary literary theory, that a control which proposes to fix and finish literary or biographical texts, even if predicated on an author's plainly stated intention, is in fact illusory.
Inevitably then, control has been the central issue for readers and editors of Dickinson. Translated from chirography to print, editors' works have been invested with an authority-privileging one over all other variants, for example-missing from the originals and in which Dickinson does not appear to have been interested. An inevitable consequence of reproduction in the medium, the regularization and uniformity of typography exaggerates parameters of Dickinson's poetic forms and techniques to disguise them as inflexible and without evolution over decades. Widely recognized is the fact that in a world transformed by the printing press, "print . . . both diffused elements of control" and "'made possible new
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kinds of control over people,' based in people's measurement of 'themselves against a widespread norm and . . . doubt [of their own worth.'" Via conduct books, autobiographies, and even novels, print culture abetted ideologies of propriety and normalcy through wider disseminations of depictions of norms and standards. "Print did not cause conformity" but clarified "what was expected of people and what would be considered atypical."18 Likewise, print translations of Dickinson do not cause conformity among her readers, but they do clarify expectations for readers and demarcate an interpretive territory or horizon of expectations for what may (her appropriation of the hymnal stanza) and may not (her appropriation of rhetorical notation) be deemed poetically significant.
In this "fallen" world of reading, an amnesia similar to that which made readers forget that the poetess in white was a stock character also makes us forget that the slanted marks of punctuation so unusual to twentieth-century eyes "can be found in almost any nineteenth-century elocution text," casting "Emily Dickinson's choice of punctuation . . . in a far more sympathetic light" than one which would relegate it to a sign of "stress" (LF 12-13). Following the call of her "unfinished" texts and Dickinson's own actions as reader, we need not resign ourselves to a kind of hermeneutical stalemate, averring that techniques resisting print translation or found to be occasional are insignificant. What we should allow is a hermeneutics of "Possibility" (F 22; P 657), a story of reading lending itself to a thousand and more interpretations, all of which may be faithful to Dickinson's poetic project.19 Eschewing stasis, readers will want, like Dickinson, to assert "I am Eve" (L 9) and avail themselves of the ecstasy of eating fruits forbidden by print reproductions and notions of final authorial intention about finishing a literary product.20 Mark Schulman reminds us that "outside the male-dominated production and distribution processes of typographic culture, women have been molding their own alternative print culture for at least a century." Similarly, Dickinson designed an alternative project, reinventing methods of distribution and some poetic techniques. Interpreting her radical performances, readers will surrender many forms of control to which we have become accustomed and which, delimiting developments of genre and within certain historical periods, have made us comfortable. Thus, "Rowing in Eden," readers will want, as much as is possible, to adopt an attitude that consciously aspires to be "prelapsarian"-before a fall into knowledge about how Dickinson was as a poet or woman, and before a fall into opinion of how her texts should appear in print, where they have been celebrated and ridiculed, figuratively and literally bought and sold. Since to be absolutely
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prelapsarian is not only an impossible dream, but an undesirable retreat into ignorance, readers will want to acknowledge that this Eden is a realm of carefully tended experience, and after Eve started investigating the possibilities of critical inquiry. Listening to Blake, readers will find cultivation of informed "innocence," which eschews the foreclosing prejudices of experience, desirable; and with Robert Frost ("Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same"), readers may even decide that never again will poetry-or at least Dickinson's poetry-be the same, and that jolting readers out of passive worship of what other textual producers have made was why Dickinson came. More than a decade ago, Karl Keller maintained that Emily Dickinson "is now strong enough as a writer in our literary history to transform our view of the culture itself. She makes it indigenous to her. We may understand much of it somewhat differently because of her."21
Literary Property and Intellectual Copyright
Translated into printed works, Dickinson's poems and letters have long been treated as properties. In her complaint about "The Snake," the poet herself sounds rather territorial about misplaced punctuation, and in a letter to Dickinson, Helen Hunt Jackson sounds even more proprietary. Maintaining that literature belongs to its audience, in 1876 Hunt Jackson complained that Dickinson had not returned a poem previously sent, "though you wrote that you would. Was this an accident, or a late withdrawal of your consent? Remember that it is mine-not yours-and be honest" (L 444a). Lavinia Dickinson, Mabel Loomis Todd, Susan Dickinson, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and Millicent Todd Bingham staked competing claims and contested one another over who rightfully possessed Emily Dickinson's poems, and the wars between the houses Dickinson, then between them and the house of Todd, have long been documented and variously rehashed (see AB, Editing, or Life). Likewise, for the past century, critics and editors continually replicate proprietary struggles over what meanings may be properly assigned and how Dickinson's poems may be correctly reproduced. Theories have been proposed about her angled dashes and capitals only to be dismissed as absurd (Editing 121), yet those questions remain unsettled; and disputes over how to regard her fascicles and lineation are far from over. Since in its relation to conventional publication Dickinson's poetic career and poetics may be aptly described as "contestatory," all this dissension is probably inevitable. Jerome McGann proclaims, "The retreat of Emily Dickinson is eloquent with social mean-
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ing, and her poetic methods-the refusal to publish, the choice of album verse forms, the production of those famous manuscript fascicles-are all part of a complex poetic statement which is explicated in the context of her world, and which carries significance into our day when we are able, not to enter, but to face and come to terms with that world."22 We must also come to terms with the major arbitrating factor in the struggles to control interpretations in this first century of Dickinson study-intention. Not surprisingly, as Dickinson has become more and more a communal property, stories about controlling readings of her have abounded, and concepts of her intentions become increasingly important to establish "authenticity" of various critical positions. As important as our refusal to discount her intentions entirely, however, is a commitment to resist the overarching claim that would use an understanding of Dickinson's purposes to dismiss contradictory interpretations. Emily Dickinson need not be interpretively imprisoned in the prose of our individual renditions of her works and/or lives (F 21; P 613).
To begin to analyze what she may have intended and the continuing social significance of her poetic production, one should first consider how Dickinson located herself in her literary world. At a time when Emerson claimed there was no circumference (see "Circles"), Dickinson declared circumference-her own terms and premises-her "Business" (L 268). Had she not hailed from the upper classes, she would most likely have not been able to do this. Like "Fanny Fern" (Sara Payson Willis) and her fictional Ruth Hall, women who were Dickinson's literary contemporaries usually had to sell their work: "There tended to be a sort of immediacy in the ambitions of literary women leading them to professionalism rather than artistry, by choice as well as by social pressure and opportunity."23 Or, to invoke Dickinsonian succinctness: "Publication - [was] the Auction" (F 37; P 709) necessary for economic survival. Dickinson did not have to write to earn her keep, was not expected to make her fortune in order to maintain the family fortune, and that made, if not all, then certainly a most substantial difference. By her handwritten productions, she deprived a primarily male corps of its copyright on what constitutes serious poetic technique. As critics like David Porter acknowledge, when Dickinson refused the world of print for showcasing her poetry, she ensured herself a particular (some may prefer peculiar) sort of autonomy, for "printed versions of the [Dickinson] poems necessarily recreate the figure of the artist" and her poetic objectives.24 The fact that she did not have to profit from her literary performances enabled Dickinson to establish a
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place all her own in the artistic world, a territory which otherwise would have been "off limits" and which is "off limits" to any intellectual copyright.
Literary Production and the Shapes of Performance
From this position, Dickinson could afford to complain about editorial intervention because she did not have to fret or agonize about her earning power, and she did not choose to worry about or prove that she could pay her way. Surely the closest opportunity she had to observe a woman supporting herself was her sister-in-law Sue teaching school in Baltimore. To say the least, Sue's was not the most joyous foray a woman could make into the world of work. For whatever reason-to protect her privacy or autonomy-Dickinson did not tame her odd ways and set conventional publication as her primary goal. Though she saw her poems printed in newspapers, Civil War publications like Drum Beat, and the anthology A Masque of Poets (in which "Success is counted sweetest," attributed by many to Emerson, appeared), Dickinson was not published like Fern, Elizabeth Oakes-Smith, Lydia Sigourney, Frances Osgood, or other nineteenth-century women writers in volumes widely read among the middle and upper classes.
That Dickinson continued to write though she did not produce books for mass distribution meant that everything, including her "typeface," was handmade. Over the many years of this cottage-industry literary production, her experimentation with the rhetorical notation that she learned at school gradually expanded to include other types of poetic experimentation with visual representation. While others shaped their subject matter and poetic forms and, like the early nineteenth-century American poet Sally Hastings, even their complaints about convention-bound critics25 to fit what editors of publishing houses would support, Dickinson continued to produce many works that did not conform to print standards. Writing in and from this place Emerson christened "the Portfolio,"26 Dickinson developed a poetics in very different ways from her peers who wrote with the printing press and with pleasing editors, reviewers, and the nineteenth-century American consumer in mind. In fact, these developments are so unusual that it is a commonplace to say, as has Sharon Cameron quite recently, that there are no "changes in the style of the poems" and that "there is no development" in the Dickinson "canon," for "the experiences recorded by these poems are insular ones, subject to endless
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repetition. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the same poem of pain or loss keeps writing itself over and over.27 From this view, holograph poetic form is not regarded as commentary on a lyric's content or on the form itself, and the context of a poem's presentation in a letter or a fascicle is not important enough to be taken into consideration. Similarly, representing a document's context, Thomas Johnson regarded chronology as more important than audience, and, representing textual "facts," did not regard her holograph forms as meaningful parts of the poems. About variant versions of "A Death blow - is a Life blow - to Some -" he remarks that "the text of all these is identical; differences are in form only," as if the same instructions for reading would be conveyed by different arrangements (P 816n). His horizon of expectations, created by study of lyrics as printed objects, does not enable Johnson to see changes in holograph lineation and punctuation as deliberate, but only as "accidents" of handwritten manuscripts.
One familiar with the printed representations, from those of Higginson-Todd-Bingham and Dickinson-Bianchi-Hampson to those of Thomas Johnson, would probably be inclined to agree with these interpretations. Yet scrutiny of her chirography alone tends to modify views of Dickinson's poetic evolutions, however unusual or trivial some variations may initially appear to eyes trained to study typeface. In Franklin's Manuscript Books (Sets 8-15), one can see that by the 1870s Dickinson was spacing her letters and shaping them much more dramatically than she had in her early fascicles of the late 1850s and 1860s. As Susan Howe reminds us, if one carefully examines just these later documents, one "will see what gets lost in any typeface. In typography's mirror of production, words reflect only the shadow of their inception. Try to copy [Dickinson's] calligraphy; retrace one sweeping S, a, or C, and you will know how sure her touch was/is. Shapes and letters pun on and play with each other. Messages are delivered by marks. All redundancies are cut away to recover the innocence of the eye."28 Similar handwriting developments can be seen in her letters.
Other stories told about these alterations have simply assumed that Dickinson's holograph "naturally" changed over the years, and thus these variations have nothing to do with her poetic endeavors. Though her holograph undoubtedly matured, I contend that the diversifications in her script signify more than unwitting or "natural" evolutions: they indicate intentional changes in holograph design. The majority of her surviving documents is prepared for Dickinson's style of "publication." Letters and poems for inclusion in those missives or for binding into manuscript books
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are copied onto linen, often gilt-edged paper. In these, the handwriting exhibits the exaggerated, apparently deliberate characteristics Howe describes. But besides those documents mailed or bound or organized into sets are drafts-some on scraps of paper, backs of grocery lists, even backs of recipes, and a few on fine stationery. In the drafts and scraps, her handwriting is not so dramatic and looks like that of Franklin's second "Master" letter, which he dates "early 1861" (ML 21-29). The first story to explain this is of course that all of those scraps, then, were written earlier than the documents produced in the extraordinary hand indicating Dickinson's later productions (see P, facsimiles between xlviii-xlix). Yet a draft of a letter said to be to Judge Otis P. Lord and dated in the 1870s also looks like the more casual handwriting of the second "Master" letter of 1861 and that of the scraps, while its fair copy looks like documents dated in the mid-1870s or even early 1880s (see Revelation 78-81 for facsimiles of A 734, A 735, L 559). Since they are a draft and fair copy of the same letter, one logically concludes that they were written at the same time. Thus the differences in handwriting indicate that Dickinson had a casual hand for scripting drafts, as well as what one might call a "performance script," a more stylized holograph for "publication." In this intentionally produced performance script are the profound changes in letter formation, spacing, and lineation.
Some Limits of the Marketplace and of Intention
So far I have reviewed some ways in which Dickinson's mode of production shaped the physical details of her performances. Implicit in this story is recognition that Dickinson began to challenge the fetters of the printed form. Because no conventional mode of typesetting can ever adequately reproduce their visual nuances, by the fact of their very existence, her literary productions disrupt, even contest, orders established and fixed by the printing press. So to prepare to row in Eden and read her anew, more detailed consideration of how the mechanical modes of production have for the past century shaped reception and editing of her writings is crucial, In the capitalistic world of publication in America, editors often do not want merely to justify but want to make a profit from manufacturing multiple copies of a work. As we saw in the first chapter, Dickinson's earliest editors tailored certain of her poems to make them more palatable to a larger audience. In the case of "A solemn thing - it was -" (F 14; P 271),
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the editorial "goal" was not "to discover exactly what" the author Dickinson "wrote and to determine what form" of her "work" she "wished the public to have," but rather was to mold Dickinson's work so that it would be acceptable to what Loomis Todd and Higginson presumed the taste of most of the audience to be.29 This example, in which her marketability superseded the intentions declared by the fact of the poem, reminds us that, in the world of print, "literary [re]production is not an autonomous and self-reflexive activity; it is a social and an institutional event."30
Examples of editorial changes also remind us that recovery of intentions is circumscribed by an editor's horizon of expectations. When Higginson prepared "Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple" in the early 1890s for a place in the second volume they produced, he wrote Loomis Todd: "I have combined the two 'Juggler of Day' poems, using the otter's window of course (oriel!!) & making the juggler a woman, as is proper" (P 228n). His reference to "oriel!!" is to a version transmitted by Dickinson's cousin, Perez D. Cowan, from memory of a copy given him by Sue (another version with the same word choice had also been printed during Dickinson's lifetime in the Springfield Daily Republican on March 30, 1864). Having labeled the most likely source of the variant (the author) "Wayward" (L 271), "spasmodic," and "uncontrolled" (L 265) three decades before, Higginson appears to regard "oriel's" a preposterous alternative and indicates as much with his exclamation point and prepositional phrase "of course." Or, aware of and perhaps influenced by the hostilities between Sue and Mabel, he may have considered transmissions of Dickinson's poetry via Sue suspect. Yet as the conclusion of his statement makes plain, his expectations are most shaped by preconceptions of what is "proper." That notions of propriety played a key role in assumptions Higginson made about Dickinson's intentions is indisputable when one reflects on the fact that he worried to Loomis Todd about the conclusions readers might draw from the erotic lyric "Wild Nights."
The stock character-virgin recluse poet-shapes even the relatively liberal Higginson's image of Dickinson and his views of what she meant. One does not need to know that geography, especially the sea, provides Dickinson with metaphors for her landscape of the heart, and that ships were often her vessel of choice when she needed a symbol for the individuals populating her poems about the affections, to see that "Wild Night's" imagery is explicitly sexual. There is no record of this having been sent to any, but it is obvious why no correspondent of hers would have readily identified him or herself as the recipient of such erotic lyric.31
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Neither is evidence that Higginson would apprehensively deny Dickinson's sexuality at all surprising. But Higginson and Loomis Todd's reproduction of the poem evinces that his perception was circumscribed by conventional poetic form as well as by preconceptions about the proper spinster. In Poems by Emily Dickinson: Second Series (1891), they printed
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Though he says that they should change her word "as little as possible," Higginson gave his nod to this sanitized version of "Wild Nights." The last stanza, for example, no longer boasts unconventional lineation, encouraging readers to passionate pause, consonant with the poem's sensual suggestions. When Wylder published a photograph of "Wild Nights" in 1971, her argument overlooked lineation and drew reader's attentions to the dashes (LF first photostat). But as well as some unusual punctuation, Dickinson's version (H 38; F 11) bears an eye-catching stanza of five lines, not the predictable four (see Figure I).
Erased from any typescript reproduction, which levels the effects of letters, is Dickinson's extraordinary, somewhat seductive, calligraphy-the wide-mouthed W, the triangular T at the beginning of the sixth line, and the stunning flourish that crosses both T's in "Tonight." Obviously, in their production Higginson and Loomis Todd regularize the minutiae of Dickinson's punctuation to "correct" her ecstatic exclamation mark without a point and to even the long and short dashes by translating them into conventional, equally demarcated signs; then, by altering the lineation, they smooth out the lyric's rhythm, and, in doing so, mask the breathless sexuality conveyed by the holograph, tempering, therefore, her intemperance. Conforming to notions of proper poetic form may have been the
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only factors consciously urging such editorial changes, since Higginson and Loomis Todd most likely did not imagine that Dickinson meant for the last stanza to be five lines.
Conceptions of what she could have intended continued to limit editorial praxis throughout the first century of translating her holograph works to print. Like Higginson and Loomis Todd, Thomas Johnson does not consider that Dickinson may have intentionally produced a five-line final stanza when he observes that in the earlier editors' version, "the last word of line 11 is arranged as the first of line 12" (P 249n). The idea of a regular four-line stanza dictates the perceptions of these editors. Viewing the Amherst poet's lyric through such a lens has become fairly routine, for, as most anthology headnotes acknowledge, Emily Dickinson's appropriation of the hymn stanza has often been discussed. One of the many ways in which the understanding of the first reader has been elaborated in a chain of receptions from critic to critic, this critical commonplace about Dickinson's form can mediate perceptions of her poetics to such an extent that editors sometimes cannot see more radical experimentations.32 Privileging the stanza guides the way Johnson sees and reproduces one of Dickinson's most intriguing departures from the constraints of conventional poetic form, the version of "I reason-" (P 301; H 274) that she sent to Sue (see Figure 2).
In this variant Dickinson's poem is not divided into three discrete stanzas of four regular lines each. Instead, she uses the staggered placement of words on sixteen lines to arrest the reader's attention and slow down the process of perusal to a halting pace. In turn, this enables more careful examination of that which could have been rendered in the most standardized form to encourage new, unpredictable ways of reading (another, much more conventional, twelve-line version of this poem is bound into the fascicles; see F 20). By doing so, the thrice-repeated clause "I reason" and the query "But, what of that?" redirect the reader and recast her understanding to underscore the unreasonableness and irrationality of the Christian assurances Dickinson calls into question here. This version, with its underlinings and dramatic placement of the solitary syllable "die -" on a line by itself, seems bitingly sarcastic, while the tone of the more traditionally formulated version is much more muted. Implicitly, this and that regularized twelve-line fascicle version critique one another. Some readers may determine the more unusually lineated copy overdone and, judging them to be more masterful in ironic understatement, prefer conventional lineation and even rhythms for this bold speculation. But the gist of both versions is finally to declare "What does it matter that I reason?" At the
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very least, the more exaggerated variant shows Dickinson experimenting with lineation and word placement, therefore with the ways in which unusual forms of written language work upon readers. Her strategies are so novel that the reader attends to every detail, noticing that by this version's end the question "what of that!" is punctuated with an exclamation point, thus accentuating the more despairing connotations of "So what, who cares that I reason?"
Yet when Johnson reproduces this version, he obscures Dickinson's extraordinary play with lineation by dividing the poem into three stanzas and printing "die-" as if it is on the same line as "We should." His note on the manuscripts reveals that he considers both holographs to be twelve-line poems, and his reproduction of the text indicates that he assumes Dickinson's allegiance to stanzaic form. As G. Thomas Tanselle has observed, questions of authorial intention reflect "legitimate interest in the minds of individual authors as well as in the collaborative physical products of printers and publishers," yet "the texts we encounter in printed or manuscript documents can only be instructions for re-creating works, not the works themselves (the medium of literature being language, not paper and ink)."33 To examine these documents and try to determine just how Dickinson intended this poem to appear in print (concluding, therefore, what was her final authorial intention for its reproduction) would at best meet with uneasy, editorially presumptive resolutions. But to peruse these documents to learn what they may disclose of Dickinson's poetic mind at work meets with much happier results. To this reader, these variants suggest that both the line and the stanza were forms that Dickinson kept in mind as she shaped her poems. The version to Sue employs odd linear arrangements to disrupt the reassurances offered by reliable stanzaic form. The existence of two forms, each of which suggests different nuances of meaning, therefore leaving a single definitive text indeterminate, makes the poem more, not less, exciting to the general reader, and more, not less, interesting to the literary scholar. Offering itself in various manifestations, the lyric is more fascinating poetically, for scrutinized intertextually each version engages the reader in many more ways than either might alone. That conclusions or postulations about Dickinson's final intentions for print need not be drawn does not discount her intentions altogether, for her doubling of this lyric reveals her conscious departure from and interrogation of the predictability of standard poetic forms, and is more likely than a single print translation to enhance our understanding of her attitudes toward creative processes and the functions of the written word.
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Intentions, Ideologies, and the Idea of a Finished Text
Through her variant words and versions of poems, as well as punctuation, lineation, and bookmaking variant from conventional forms, Dickinson extends herself toward her audience, demanding a kind of performance or what Miller calls "actively expectant reading." Dickinson's variant versions work in ways analogous to the word choices left at the end of or between the lines of many lyrics, requiring "the reader's participation in establishing the text of a poem." In such interactions, "the reader must," Miller observes, "continually stabilize the text by choosing what belongs in it and at the same time repeatedly return to account for the other, unchosen, possibilities of the poem's meaning."34 Like Miller, John Hollander also observes ways in which readers must interact with Dickinson's performances in order to stabilize a text (however temporarily) for interpretation. For example, discussing "a selection of Dickinson's poems" he edited for an anthology and editorial problems with which anyone reproducing her texts must grapple, he proclaims that sometimes one must repunctuate (i.e., substitute conventional marks for "those things that are reproduced as dashes") the poems because they "are so difficult that we have to punctuate them one way to resolve them.... This can make difficulties of another sort, because I'm sure that attentive and loving readers of Dickinson's poetry will absolutely and firmly disagree as to the reading of an ambiguous passage that could go either way (but most often not, as in Shakespeare's sonnets, both ways at once). You have to have a very strong sense of what the poem is and what it's doing to be able to resolve these matters of syntax." Absolute and firm disagreements on the part of readers will occur, even when they each peruse the very same marks on the page. Judging from his comments about Dickinson's enjambments of stanzas, Hollander would disagree with my interpretation of "I reason-": "Sometimes she writes out the poem so that if you didn't have an ear you could say, 'Oh, this is in a different experimental form.' But it isn't: she's simply written out two halves of the four-beat line as two separate lines, for example."35 And I disagree with his apparent conviction that poems demand resolution.
Such differences among readers are not difficulties that need hamper or impede shared or individual readings; on the contrary, "such conflicts and confusions are among the primary motives for intepretation," and, I would add, for the critical dialogue of interpretations.36 In the rhyming ditty of a statement mentioned in the closing paragraph of the introduction, Dickinson jauntily proclaims acute awareness that her readers,
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equally versed and equally committed to recovering her meaning, would probably disagree and each have his or her own stories of reading;
A word is dead, when it is said
(L 374; P 1212)37
These words of Dickinson have lived on (without her) in various forms. The sing-song rhyme conveys a jocularity that in self-mocking irony reminds us of Dickinson's consciousness of ambiguity, of the fact that written language is especially rife with variously meaning inflections, and of the reader's contribution to the production of text and meaning. Umberto Eco observes that "to postulate the cooperation of the reader does not mean to pollute the structural analysis with extratextual elements. The reader as an active principal of interpretation is a part of the picture of the generative process of the text."38 In fact, as Miller observes, in the case of Dickinson, consciously refusing to pollute the structure with extratextual elements like erasure of variants renders poems that directly invite the reader's participation, underscoring her role as "an active principal of interpretation."
Like Gary Lee Stonum, who contends that Dickinson's poems are designed to prompt a reader's imagination without demanding a particular interpretation, Miller recognizes that the reader's involvement is of paramount importance. Observing that the ideas of "literary masterpieces presuppose the idea of author as master," and that "Dickinson's concern is with the effect of poetry, not its production," Stonum concludes that she "can never either fully reject or fully endorse literary mastery as something she is eager to practice."39 Like William Faulkner, who candidly observed that "when the reader has read all these thirteen different ways of looking at a blackbird, the reader has his own fourteenth image of that blackbird which I would like to think is the truth," Dickinson does not require acquiescence from and dominion over the reader. In his critique of one of her most discussed poems about poets and their value, "I reckon when I count / at all -" (F 28; P 569), in which poets and their productions inspire the speaker to "write," Stonum notes that, according to Dickinson, the distinctive glory of poets "occasions or stimulates further production on the part of the reader who becomes a writer-part poet, part recording auditor-in her turn.... Part of the ultimate business of Dickinson's po-
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etry, in addition to and sometimes in lieu of creating finished spectacles, is producing poems that may then beget from her audience new poems and other forms of free, active response." I would modify Stonum's observations to say that, since it is part of a poem's effect, Dickinson is in fact deeply concerned with the processes of poetic production and reproduction. Recognizing these preoccupations vital to her poetic enterprise leads not to conclusions like R. P. Blackmur's that she was neither professional nor amateur nor to ones like Porter's that her thought is instinctive and formless, but instead to profound questions about the business of literary criticism and our reproductions of interpretations and authors. By leaving alternatives that have forced conventionally motivated editors to pick and choose, thereby refusing to "finish" texts for the printer, Dickinson at least implicitly critiques the processes of poetic production and consumption in the age of mechanical reproduction that discourage individual production and, through automation, "frieze" dynamic texts into static objects.
Whether Dickinson intended her homemade modes of literary production to be part of what Wylder calls her "poetic manifesto" (LF I) and Stonum calls her "literary program" is an obvious and important question to confront. One story of interpretation would answer that her manuscripts exist in these states only because Dickinson did not prepare for publication and that if she had done so, the poems would not have been left in these states (with so many variants), but would have been resolved into final forms. Of course had she published conventionally, her poems would have been reproduced in much more regular forms, whatever her intentions for them might have been. But when Dickinson "published" herself, she did not have to limit her perogatives to a single word choice or particular version. At first glance, that Dickinson chose one among various possibilities when sending a poem to an audience appears to argue for the view that, given the opportunity of print, she would have resolved the most blatant textual indeterminacies by settling on a variant. Yet in an address to the English Institute, Johnson declared that "if any conclusion is to be drawn" from this fact of different versions to different correspondents, "it would seem to be that there are no final versions of the poems for which she allowed alternate readings to stand in the packets"40; therefore, her fair copy resolutions were occasional and for a particular audience. This fact argues for the opinion that Dickinson's "completions" are always provisional, that she divested herself of presumptions to finish a poem, and that she was highly conscious of diverse, even contradictory receptions. Thus a leap of faith into suppositions about what she would have done to resolve a poem is not necessary. Yet Johnson and subsequent edi-
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tors do not extend such analysis to conclude that any resolution-whether to construct a reader's edition or to meet prevailing poetic standards-obscures some crucial social import of her literary career.
Though Franklin realized early on that "if we want the poems in a finished state, we must apply other principles of selection [than authorial preference or discernible patterns] and must take responsibility for doing so" (Editing 131), he does not speculate that this may have been an important point of Dickinson's poetic project. Like the indeterminate punctuation marks and striking handwriting, the variants and Dickinson's "publications" reveal her regard for language as a dynamic exchange between speaker/author and listener/audience and for poetry as an art fashioned in those processes. Franklin observes that "the manuscript books record many poems in a state of incompletion, whereas when Dickinson went 'public' with a copy to friends, she would produce a fair copy, all alternates resolved. Moreover, the display of alternates in the fascicles is often confusing, with no indication of the words to which they relate, or with indistinct indication." Guided by a notion of finishing a text for publication, his interpretation continues, concluding that the fascicles forestalled "disorder" in Dickinson's manuscripts and their construction served to help her "get control of her poetry in the only way, barring publication, that she had developed" ("Fascicles" 16). If Dickinson had resolved each poem for "publication" to her correspondents in the same way or if we could rest absolutely certain that she never sent the manuscript books out to anyone, then this interpretation that sees the fascicles only as "private documents, copied for her own uses" could perhaps go unmodified. However, an October 1875 letter from Helen Hunt Jackson casts doubt on certainties that the manuscript books were always private documents, as well as on the supposition that Dickinson only sent her poems out one or two or three or four at a time, enclosed in her letters: "I have a little manuscript volume with a few of your verses in it-and I read them very often-You are a great poet-and it is wrong to the day you live in, that you will not sing aloud. When you are what men call dead, you will be sorry you were so stingy" (L 444a). Whether Hunt Jackson had a fascicle or not we can never know, but the possibility that she may have should not be dismissed and raises other important questions. When Hunt Jackson wrote Dickinson ten years later-"I wish I knew what your portfolios, by this time, hold" (L 976a, 1885)-was she referring to Dickinson's "bookmaking" and implicitly asking to see a fascicle or simply using the term "portfolio" conventionally to refer to private writings? How did the solicitous "Miss P-," who requested poems and to whom Dickinson said she "replied
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declining" (L 380), know to ask for her work? Is it possible that Dickinson sent out more of her work, even some manuscript books, than has been commonly believed? Can we conclusively regard all of the extant fascicles as the same sort of document as Shurr, who believes their addressee is "Master," suggests? In all their variety, what poetic statements are made by their existence?
Challenging the illusions of fixity inspired by printed forms, hermeneutics shaped by conventional conceptions of publication privileging "finished" texts, Dickinson, in her manuscripts, launches an important artistic statement exposing the ideological presumptions driving insistence on textual "resolution." Print culture fosters or abets an ideology of the finished literary piece and the notion that a poem is reified and completed, waiting like a "foster child of silence" on the page (Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"), which in turn reinforces and helps to reproduce the ideology of the autonomous author completing such an object. Though the notion of "finishing" is almost certainly a foregone consequence of poetry evaluated in typographic culture, such convictions originate in hermeneutics developed to produce "authentic" scripture, faithfully transmitting every jot and tittle of the Word of the Alpha and Omega, no more and no less. The Bible promises the most severe penalties for those who interact with scripture in ways Dickinson's poems demand, and Jesus's dying gasp, "It is finished" (John 19:30), reverberates to Revelation's final injunction-"If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22: 18-19). This imperative threatens that anyone tampering with dead letters pronounced sacred will forfeit her place in the book of life, though of course the facts of translation and transmission have exponentially reproduced texts that can never be resolved into indisputable completion and that often compete with one another as the most authentic Bible.
Nevertheless, determined by a will to control, this concept of Holy Writ, of text as completed object, helped mold concepts of literature and literary reproduction that privilege final authorial intention. Thus the idea of the sealed text resonates to notions of poetic texts as finished, resolved to the most authoritative version. Ironically, in the case of Dickinson, such motivation to control and complete texts contradicts not only her designs but also the original biblical injunction to transmit works as they were written, for many of her works must be changed in order to be "finished."
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With the notion of finishing dominating his interpretation of what the variants and versions mean, Franklin makes some important observations about the evolution of Dickinson's poetic project but does not consider the possibility that her intentions may have included critiquing the very idea of final textual resolution. Of the fascicles and the many variants left there, he records:
Formal aspects of these manuscripts books developed over several years. Among them are the presence and display of alternative readings, underlining and quotation marks, variation in overflow technique, the number of sheets per fascicle, and the use of single leaves. For example, when she began, Emily Dickinson allowed only completed poems into the fascicles. The first unresolved reading does not appear for about a year, and there are only about a half dozen in the first ten fascicles, through about 1860. About 1861, and continuing thereafter, alternative readings became abundant: Dickinson had moved fascicle copying earlier into her poetic process....
To see the poems with multiple variants as "incomplete" is not only an obvious conclusion to draw, but also a way to control the poems. Yet a poet with such an anomalous style of "publication" viewed the poetic process as much more dynamic than print-determined perspectives have often allowed, and as her conceptions about poetics evolved, authorial presumptions of completion became antithetical to her purposes.
Gender, Poetics, and Intentionality
Like tradition-bound interpretations of Sappho, interpretations of Dickinson have often regarded her productions as masterpieces of unconscious artistry, explaining that the nearly 1,800 poems are by-products of a lonely woman or disaffected intellect who, by scribbling her heart or brain out, coincidentally made literature. Some readers assume that because Dickinson was "a little homekeeping person," "while she had a proper notion of the final destiny of her poems she was not one of those poets who had advanced to that late stage of operations where manuscripts are prepared for the printer, and the poet's diction has to make concessions to the publisher's style-book"; others maintain that she wrote poetry instead of performing household routines, "indefatigably as other women cook or knit," for "her gift for words and the cultural predicament of her time
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drove her to poetry instead of antimacassars"; still others believe her to have been "a compulsive writer," thus conclude her writing has "something to do with the lack of an advancing, coherent, and complicated intention" and assert that she "is the only major American poet who wrote without a project."41 Especially since so many assumptions originate in gender-determined pretext about the author, feminist critics bear a special responsibility not only to examine the contemporary social predicament of American women of Dickinson's class and extensions of gender biases into our own time, but also to scrutinize the politics of author recognition and the much-debated idea of the author. If feminist critics do not attempt such complex interrogations, we can, as Cheryl Walker and others have noted, fall into the trap that "assumes no disjunction between poet and speaker" and read poems reductively, as if "the author is the meaning of the text, a personal, autobiographical personage who has a 'true self' that can be embodied relatively transparently in language." Instead, we need to develop "a new concept of authorship that does not naively assert that the writer is an originating genius" creating closed artifacts, but is a textual producer whose enterprise is generative, turning every reader into a coproducer or coauthor.42 In fact, as the lesbian or sexual continuum makes a useful tool for beginning to understand the highly complex natures of human sexuality, so the idea of an authorial continuum proves a valuable tool for beginning to understand the very complicated symbioses among author, text, and reader. At one pole are those who proclaim that the birth of the reader requires the death of the author, while at the other pole are those whose author-centered aesthetics make them imagine "that reading and writing are neutral or benign and that poems ideally transmit to the audience finished meanings the author has fashioned, devised, or determined."43 Both ideas are helpful. The former urges readers not only to acknowledge the roles of their own biases and preferences in authoring texts for interpretation, but also, as Walker exhorts, to acknowledge that "ideology will also govern our construction of the author, especially but not only if the author becomes un sujet a aimer, a someone to love"; the latter reminds us that "there is an infinite number of presences, or traces, in a given text," some of which are of the originating author. This critical position neither champions anonymous textuality, repressing all critical interrogation of the author's writing identity, nor accepts simple equations between the "I" of her texts and the flesh and blood writing body Emily Dickinson.
Consonant with the critical observations of Georg Lukacs, many critics have observed that lyric poetry-direct, sudden, "like lost original
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manuscripts suddenly made legible"-fosters illusions of authenticity in depicting moments, as well as, by making the subject appear to be "the sole carrier of meaning, the only true reality," in depicting the lyric "I."44 Thus Dickinson's choice of form especially lends itself to interpretations that confuse the speaker with the author, and her readers commonly conflate the two. The only times that Dickinson even hinted autobiographical or biographical interpretation might be appropriate was when she incorporated lines of poetry into a letter, which she did with many of her correspondents. Significantly, however, the only reader to whom she sent score upon score of signed lyrics, often prefaced with salutation, was "Dear Sue." By signing and addressing these poems Dickinson complicates our sense of what they are, and they cannot be simply classified as the same sort of lyric as those presented in the fascicles or enclosed as unsigned, unaddressed pieces in letters to others. If Sue chose to interpret these uniquely presented lyrics as referring to actual events or persons, as she and other correspondents probably did when Dickinson incorporated poetic lines into letters, we may reasonably postulate that she was not just responding to the immediacy of lyric form. Yet for the vast majority of readers, Dickinson's poems appear in printed volumes as untitled and unsigned lyrics; in reproduction, even the poems addressed to Sue have been isolated from their salutation and signature. Therefore, it is plain that the effect of the poetic form itself, perhaps in combination with a vague notion of the author frequently labeled "mysterious," impels the relentlessly autobiographical interpretations of readers who never knew or corresponded with Emily Dickinson. Instead of equating unsigned lyrics in a fascicle or enclosed with a letter to Higginson with those addressed "Dear Sue" and signed "Emily" or with those woven into the prose of a letter, as Johnson's presentations in the variorum encourage, readers should take Dickinson's presentation(s) of a poem into account. Deciding that the "I" in a poem clearly addressed to Sue is a "supposed person" is a very different matter from concluding that the "I" in a poem bound into a fascicle is fictional. As will become evident in my discussion of their poetic workshop and literary "self"-presentation, I do not think that such framing of her lyrics to Sue transforms their "I" from a supposed to a real person, but it does demand a different set of critical questions about constructions of the author.
Also, beginning to examine "the process and strategies" by which Dickinson transformed herself into an artist, "taking control of the production of writing to challenge" poetic conventions and traditions-particularly as they relate to gender-raises important questions about the
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"fundamental tenets" of poetic value, especially that which privileges an ideal of the unified finished product.45 If her poetic processes, traces of which are recorded in the manuscripts but erased in typographic translations, require us to be done with compass and chart of traditional critical models too limited to analyze them, what are the rules of the game and how do we read the Dickinson documents? If in our efforts to understand we need not regularize nor impose unwonted uniformities on Dickinson's texts, giving precedence to her arrangements over our own, allowing, as M. L. Rosenthal recommends in a review of the Manuscript Books, "more consciousness to develop into comprehension" by learning from holographs or facsimile representation of her texts,46 what are the implications regarding class status and the availability of Dickinson's works? Since profound insights into her poetics like Stonum's are obtainable by studying the print translations, how important to her general audience can manuscript study be? If we do not advocate a program for study open only to those who can afford trips to the archives and the more than one hundred dollars to purchase the photographically faithful reproductions in Manuscript Books and Master Letters, what then is the point in arguing for the integrity of the "nontranslatables" (elements leveled or otherwise erased in print), especially since most critics depend on one of the Johnson editions or selected representation of the poems in anthologies for both scholarship and teaching? Why not see the experimentations recoverable only in manuscript study as relevant exclusively for a highly specialized field of Dickinson studies, but not necessarily vital for general readers?
The methods for reading Dickinson outlined below begin to address these questions, though they are brief recommendations and in no way exhaustive. First, since serious scholars must and other readers will probably want to acquaint themselves with the facsimiles available, some plans for evaluating the textual facts not obscured through photography are described. Second, since the purview of the book-The Poems of Emily Dickinson, The Letters of Emily Dickinson-has shaped our reading, new methods for patterning our perusals will be elaborated. As Suzanne Juhasz has demonstrated, "Undiscovered Continents" (Set 5; P 832), not provinces measured for conventional publication, lie everywhere in the terrains of her texts, even when they are generated by printed works. Last but certainly not least, since most of us have learned to read poems in school or are involved in educational programs, some plans for teaching out of the most commonly used translations of Dickinson's works are mentioned throughout the sections on textual facts and repatterning reading, then
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briefly delineated at this chapter's conclusion. As scrutiny of the holographs and facsimiles relaxes our presuppositions about what reading Dickinson in particular and poetry in general should be, new patterns for exploring the print translations are inevitable.
A Hermeneutics of Possibility
Discussions about how to value the Dickinson holographs would of course be intertwined with questions about how to regard what appears on the page. Likewise, scholars, faced with the poems produced by representation in Manuscript Books and new characteristics of the works must now make many more decisions about what to treat as a vital component of the textual record and what to deem insignificant, what to count as poetic experimentation and what to disregard. Doing so is an editorial act of translation and in calling attention to this teachers have a splendid opportunity to begin to explain why Ezra Pound regarded translation as a superior type of literary criticism. Interpreting Dickinson's marks, editing to emphasize some aspects and practically ignore others are acts of translation that fuse the creative and the critical. By showing how every reader becomes a creator, teachers pass along to students not "correct" interpretations to be memorized and regurgitated in ever more sophisticated narratives about reading, but skills for consciously producing literary art as they read. When Dickinson externalizes the demands for coauthorship every literary text makes of readers, the suggested rules for reading may be called "lesbian" rules-from a mason's rule of lead, which bends to fit the curves of a molding; hence, figuratively, lesbian rules are pliant and accommodating principles for judgment (OED). An architectural term is particularly appropriate, punning as it does on intimations of sexuality originally excised from official reproductions of Dickinson's texts while it underscores the building required of the reader. Depending on the work under study, these reconstructions will vary. In Johnson's variorum, for example, variants are numbered and assigned to particular words, while on Dickinson's holographs variants and places for insertion are usually indicated by a cross (+) found in a group at the end of the lyric to be matched with crosses throughout the text and, as Franklin noted, invite readers to experiment with which to insert where. Thus photographic representations of those holographs present the variants very differently than do Johnson's presen-
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tations in the variorum. Reflection upon various aspects of the material properties of works made by Dickinson and her editors and their influence on reception are, therefore, significant.
Readers should be self-conscious about differences between Franklin's edition and the actual books left in Dickinson's drawer (or chest). The Manuscript Books are not the fascicles themselves, but are pictures thereof, representations by the camera framed in ways the actual documents are not and with features obscured or highlighted by the lens but not the eye. Mutilations to texts, so obvious in the cancellation of "One Sister have I in the house" (F 2; P 14), are in other instances difficult to evaluate via photographs. On "'tis true - They shut me / in the Cold -" (F 30; P 538), for example, Loomis Todd canceled Dickinson's variants at the bottom of the page, then someone erased the penciled marks; in a photograph all this is obscured, and Franklin's note is necessary for readers even to notice the tamperings (F, p. 1383). In these photographs, pen and pencil are often not distinguishable, everything is flattened into black and shades of grey, so that pinholes are the same color as ink, the embossed Queen's head or letters or double-headed eagle are blurred marks in the corner of the page, and the gilded edges of much of Dickinson's stationery are not visible. Testaments to the great respect Dickinson had for her literary productions, awareness of such material facts is important to any assessment of the poet's purposes. Though the photographs obscure some telling features, they picture plainly the diacritical marks, calligraphic orthography, variants, and at least one of the most hysterical mutilations, as well as the fact that, in holograph, Dickinson's poems visually control the page, while in print the white space of the page practically consumes the poems, miniaturizing them in ways the handwritten documents will not allow. After a decade of mass-reproduced availability, these characteristics should be interrogated, and the illusory character of photography's apparent exactitude foregrounded.
"Dashes" and the Question of Punctuation
Echoing editorial patterns for reproducing Dickinson's texts which, accommodating typographic technology, eliminate what will not conveniently translate into typeface, critical wisdom still holds that oddities in punctuation are just as effective when, like her calligraphic designs, they are "normalized" as dashes. Cameron observes that "Dickinson's works will not stand regularizing" and that even Johnson's "variorum is less free of editorial interpretation than one could wish, and the reader's edition is
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even more burdened with it. This is true first because while any handwritten text must suffer the inexact representation (the regularizing) of the printed word, the problem is particularly severe for Dickinson's texts, punctuated as they are with dashes of varying lengths and perhaps of varying meanings."47 Though "the general conventions of printing" cannot generate a representation "comformable" to Dickinson's notation, her holographic variations need not be dismissed as "merely habits of handwriting" (Editing 120) and banished from study. Nor is it necessary to recommend, as does Miller, that although "Dickinson's punctuation, like her poetry, teaches the reader to trust the play of the mind," we might as well ignore all differences among the marks the poet produced: "To my mind, representing her slanting marks typographically as dashes [straightened out, conventionalized for print technology] . . . reproduces well the effects Dickinson apparently intended."48 When Johnson levels the slanted marks in a poem like the version of "I send Two Sunsets-" addressed to Sue (H B 154; P 308), he erases not a relatively unfamiliar diacritical mark, but the commonly recognized comma, and in doing so removes a sign that urges important questions about how to regard Dickinson's signed poems. Johnson translates the punctuation at the end of the last line of the poem into a dash when it plainly appears to be a comma. To Sue, Dickinson ends this poem as one closes a letter, turning it into a letter-poem:
I send Two sunsets -
In this instance, her choice for punctuation is bound to the occasion, and though on first glance it may appear to be a little matter to recognize the difference between a comma and a dash, it in fact makes subsequent read-
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ers conscious of Dickinson's highly selective punctuation and epistolary presentation of her poems. To analyze what appears to be her eccentric punctuation, then, devising "a systematic criticism" which factors in and begins to account for what appear to be the "antisystematic elements" so pervasive in Dickinson's work will be of utmost importance.49 Considering the context and occasion of Dickinson's "publication" of a poem are necessary elements to formulate this systematic criticism.
By refusing to evaluate the marks simply in the intellectual orb of editor/translators and considering them in the context of Dickinson's world, Wylder initiated an important shift in critical treatment of the poet's stylistic irregularities. Whether or not they are literal guides for declaiming the poems, slanted dashes, a saucy set of quotation marks, an exclamation without a point or with one but upside down (P 159; H 228 to Sue) work very differently on a reader than unexceptional, typographically regular dashes, periods, commas, and semicolons, and critical speculation about their impact could be much more exhaustive. When Dickinson appropriated the more dramatic signals for poetic expression, she was perhaps following an exhortation of Samuel P. Newman, author of one of her rhetoric textbooks: "It should be impressed on the student, that, in forming a style, he is to acquire a manner of writing to some extent, peculiarly his own, and which is to be the index to the modes of his thinking-the development of his intellectual traits and feelings."50 In our "born again," Edenic relations to such poetic techniques, we are constantly reminded that "the notation is always inadequate, by itself, in predicting performance or reading" and that such marks require "multiplicity, freedom, spontaneity" on the part of the reader; thus "much deeper aspects of the Dickinson notation than that which gathers itself in mere punctuation, syntax and grammar" or "in meter, rhythm, and diction" initiate dissolution of the hierarchies of active writer and passive reader. "In this respect the words resemble the notes in music."51
Calligraphic OrthographyStanley Morison's assertion that "typography is properly a department of calligraphy" is important to consider when evaluating whether Dickinson's holograph contributes to poetic expression. The term orthography calls attention not only to Dickinson's long recognized deviation from conventional spelling but also to the formation of letters and the relationships of individual characters to meaning. While orthography connotes making meaning through conventional spelling, or arrangements of letters
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within a word, the term also directs our attention to the power of the letter. A second definition for orthography is "that part of grammar which treats of the nature and values of letters and of their combination to express sounds and words" (OED). One of the examples given for this definition is from a text Dickinson mentions in an October 1851 letter to Sue (L 56, H L 5), Lindley Murray's English Grammar (5th ed., 1824): "Orthography teaches the nature and powers of letters, and the just method of spelling words" (OED). When Dickinson employs the term, she too attends to the individual character, the letter: "Orthography always baffled me, and to 'Ns' I had an especial aversion, as they always seemed unfinished 'M's"' (L 806 to Elizabeth Holland, March 1883); and ". . . I used to spell the one [bird] by that name 'Fee Bee' when a Child, and have seen no need to improve! Should I spell all the things as they sounded to me, and say all the facts as I saw them, it would send consternation among more than the 'Fee Bees'"! (L 820, spring 1883). In "Many a phrase has the / English language -" (F 12; P 276), the poem's speaker has "heard but one" phrase "saying itself in new inflection -" and "Breaking in bright Ortho- / graphy." Miller suggests that Dickinson puns on the alphabetical letter when she remarks to her Norcross cousins, "An earnest letter is or should be life-warrant or death-warrant, for what is each instant but a gun, harmless because 'unloaded,' but that touched 'goes off'?" (L 656, early September 1880).52 Like Maggie Tulliver's father, Dickinson "found the relation between spoken and written language, briefly known as spelling, one of the most puzzling things in this puzzling world" (The Mill on the Floss, Book I, Chapter 13). Especially in her later works, Dickinson's letter formation is at least sometimes freighted with meaning, and extraordinary calligraphic techniques that do not conform to expectations created by typeface practically qualify as a new form of spelling.
Sensitized to the visual impact of alphabetic symbols, Dickinson did not only attend to their ornamental aspects. As poet Susan Howe demonstrates in her slide lecture about Dickinson's manuscript techniques, productions like "The Sea said / 'Come' to the Brook" (A 431; Set 11) display her painstakingly careful stroke of the pens.53 In this instance, Dickinson seems concerned not so much with the beauty or elegance of the letters but with the influence of their formation on expression (see Figure 3). Though they did not investigate possible objectives, the editors of the earliest printed volumes of her poems, in which Loomis Todd and Higginson reproduced a facsimile of "There came a day-" (P 322 in Poems by Emily Dickinson, 1891), clearly realized that reading Dickinson in print was a pro-
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foundly different experience than reading her "fossil bird-tracks."54 In "The Sea said" the sly producer shapes her letters so readers are forced to consider mimesis in the most literal sense. By forming letters that "look like" waves, Dickinson mocks exclusively mimetic goals for language. Her reminders that words can be cymbals as well as symbols, and of language's self-referentialities, are gleefully comic, and her amused and amusing tone shows her self-conscious and ironic stance. By incorporating into a poem the art of making letters into beautiful objects in order to comment on a poet's meaning-making objectives, Dickinson produces a prototype of artistic critiques like Judy Chicago's calligraphic runners symbolizing the greatness of creative women throughout history at The Dinner Party and Olga Broumas's "curviform alphabet / that defies / decoding."55 By these strategies Dickinson urges readers continually to relearn how to read and decipher as she feigns performance of a feminine role of linguistic embroidery while she in fact interroates writerly pretensions to faithful representation of reality.
Variants and Lineation
Readers skeptical of elevating the status of variant stylistic characteristics as well as variants to primary elements of the poetry instead of consigning them as subdivisions of private writing exercises might keep in mind that Franklin, the editor/critic who has studied the fascicles the longest, concludes that "Dickinson did not compose onto fascicle sheets. Even those whose compositional state might be called 'worksheet' do not have the physical appearance of one, for, like other fascicle sheets, they were copied with care sometime after the initial act of composition" ("Fascicles" 12). In these are signs that Dickinson reconceived her relationship with her audience, welcoming the reader's authorship. Thus, though Johnson used Dickinson's supposed breakdown in the late 1850s and early 1860s to account for these unique features as signs of emotional strain and privileged a certain choice over another, regularized representation of her many different "dashes," as well as of her line lengths to conform to hymnal stanzas, I contend that her lines neither accidently spill over (as one might maintain for "Assassin hid in our Apart - / ment") or conform to nineteenth-century print conventions,56 nor does her handwriting uncontrollably sprawl. On the contrary, in her steady stream of production, sending out poems in letters and binding poems into little volumes, Dickinson discovered more and more techniques available to her than could be offered by a printing press. The many variant components of her texts signal a poet changing (by challenging) the standardized patterns of reading.
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"Book" Making: Reading Is Always a Process of (Re)patterning
When M. L. Rosenthal asks a question that should now be central to all Dickinson study, effects on perceptions of macro (e.g., organization of documents) as well as micro (e.g., punctuation, variants) features of production should be of concern: "What, for us, is the real bearing of Dickinson's abjuring publication even while she wrote so intensely and tried her best to organize her poems in richly interactive groupings?" Other questions about the patterns of reading made official by the chain of textual reproductions are necessary to augment this one: "What for us is the real bearing of Dickinson's works having been presented as if they can be definitively divided into discrete genres-poems and letters?" Belknap Press of Harvard University Press has produced eight books-three each of poems and letters and two volumes of fascicles-and readers should keep in mind the authority engendered by The Book. Ideas presented in books seem more important than those proposed in articles; likewise, presenting Dickinson's poems and letters in book form appears to finalize judgments about genre and organization. Their latest production of Dickinson's works, the Manuscript Books, faithfully attempts to restore her organization, but the editions of poems and letters overlay her documents with scholarly order. As it did for Blake, mass reproduction created a much wider audience for Dickinson's texts than they otherwise would have enjoyed, yet translating them into impersonal print stripped her productions of their idiosyncracies and of the place made for each by her ordering of texts. Eager to arrange her poems thematically, early editors removed the threads (strings) from the fascicles and began arranging the poems according to categories they invented. Producing his variorum in the heyday of New Criticism, which defined poems as closed objects, Johnson tore rhythmic lines from letters to make poems from prose (P 2 from L 58, October 17, 1851), divorced poems from letters in which they were enclosed to establish separate editions that assume discrete genres and showcase both letters and poems as isolated units, and, though he traced many poems to their original placement in fascicles, used chronology as his ordering principle instead of trying to restore Dickinson's groupings. Johnson's bringing together the Higginson-Todd-Bingham and Dickinson-Bianchi-Hampson reproductions and imposition of scholarly order (especially the attempt at chronological collation) were valuable and necessary steps to advance Dickinson scholarship. What dismembering Dickinson's organizational units has cost can never be fully measured,
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even with the advent of Franklin's Manuscript Books, for we can never be certain that his meticulous compilations are in every respect those of the poet. Nevertheless, to the extent possible I would like to allow Dickinson to make the "books" herself, to read each of her productions in its connection to the whole corpus to a correspondent or in connection to the fascicle in which it appears. Besides those volumes Dickinson stitched together are the individual correspondences which, like the epistles of Paul which each make a book of the New Testament, each make a "book." The poems, letters, and letter-poems sent to a single correspondent form a set of stories, apprising us about the literary relationships between Dickinson and her friends and acquaintances. Strategies for reading should follow her highly allusive, contextually oriented lead. Robert Frost remarked that in a book of twenty-five poems, the twenty-sixth poem is the book itself. So in a fascicle of twenty Dickinson poems, the twenty-first poem is the fascicle itself.57 And a "book" of one hundred letters and poems might be considered the one hundred and first letter-poem, poetic epistle, or even prose romance with verse forms. Since Dickinson's poems have been isolated, numbered, and separated from their placement by the poet since the beginning of their representations in printed volumes, the stories these units tell have been mutilated and obscured. Like Blake, Dickinson manufactures each book-of letters and poems gathered in a correspondence and of poems gathered into a fascicle-individually. For each "book" of letters and poems, she has a specific audience. In contrast, both audience and author of each untitled, unsigned fascicle are "Anonymous." Seeing especially the groups of letters and poems to particular addressees as "books" requires interactive inventive intellectual rhythms. Since their status as books is an imaginary construct of the critic who mentally unites all letters and poems to one correspondent under one rubric, treating them thus is yet another aspect of "rowing in Eden." In dramatic contrast to the capitalist and alienated modes of textual production in the province of book publishing, these personally addressed "books" present a radical alternative. The subsequent new patterns for reading will likely produce interpretive stories radically different from those about Dickinson's alienation, for Johnson's arrangement makes little plot possible but stories of fragmentation. Indeed, surgically separating poems from their context and referring to them by number makes them appear to be specimens for study of the poet's psyche. In contrast, reading according to the units made by the poet rewards us with the contexture of weaving parts into a whole and
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encourages reflection upon the power over interpretation wielded by patterns of reading. Learning from intertextualities created by her organization, one considers images and structures, their contrasts and complements, themes, juxtapositions, endings, beginnings. "Because reading is a process of patterning, to read an individual poem in isolation or outside of its original volume is not only to lose the large retroactive sweep of the book as a whole-with its attendant dynamics and significance-but also to risk losing the meanings within the poem itself that are foregrounded or activated by the context of the book."58 As Neil Fraistat observes, referring to "the contextuality provided for each poem by the larger frame within which it is placed, the intertexuality among poems so placed, and the resultant texture of resonance and meanings," "contexture" connotes all three of these qualities. To see Dickinson's bookmaking strategies as empowered poetic practice enables perception of "contextural poetics," and, as Joseph Wittreich points out perusing the intertextual connections between Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, "meaning itself derives from the concatenation."59 Richard Sewall wonders if "the fascicles show, perhaps, that she knew herself to be the master of more than the isolated lyric" (Life 2:541). Barton St. Armand speculates, "May not Dickinson's art also be an art of assemblage?" His subject focuses discussion on her "'quilting' of elite and popular ideas onto a sturdy underlying folk form, frame, or fabric," and he is most preoccupied with linking her to nineteenth-century American culture at large.60 While that broad perspective is of vital concern and serves as backdrop for my interpretations, I am most preoccupied with linking poems and letters within a correspondence to one another. For this project, the correspondences to "Master" and to Sue are two "books," and the relationships of individual poems and letters within those bear important similarities to the relationships of individual poems within a fascicle to one another.
When one studies the holographs and sees Dickinson paying more and more attention to the effects of lineation in both her letters and poems, leaving more variants, and shaping her letters more dramatically, one also observes the poet beginning to explore the intertextual possibilities for counterpointing genres-of the letter with that of the lyric poem-around and after her thirtieth year. Sometimes the counterpoint is occasional, for example to mediate potentially offensive statements to Higginson (about poetic expertise) by including "I cannot dance upon my Toes" (P 326; F 19), which proclaims "I know the Art" though "No Man instructed me," in the same letter in which she opines, "All men say 'What' to me" (L 271, August 1862). Perhaps she has a similar strategy in
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mind when she writes Samuel Bowles, "Because I could not say it - I fixed it in the Verse - for you to read -" (L 251, early 1862). The unsayable "it" more probably refers to poetic philosophy than to some private gossip, especially since Dickinson begins the missive with "If you doubted my Snow." From "Publication - is the Auction" (F 37; P 709), readers are well aware that, in the Dickinson lexicon, "snow" can serve as a metaphor for literary production. Thus her comment does not argue for the poetry as mere private communication or expression. As Dickinson counterpoints poems with letters, so she counterpoints poems within fascicles.
Like Franklin, I am not persuaded by insistence that "severely linear aspects, such as precise balance, unbroken progression, orderly recurrence" or strict "thematic, narrative or dramatic structure[s]" account for intertextualities in the fascicles. Though he acknowledges that "interest has developed in the fascicles as artistic gatherings-as gatherings interrelated by theme, imagery, emotional movement," he concludes that her primary unit for poetic production "had always been the sheet" and that one of her primary motives "in constructing these little books was to reduce disorder in the manuscripts" (F x-xiii). Yet fascicle readers "as a matter of course respond 'to sequential variation, enjoy the play of contrast in return of these, admire a felicitous change, sense the import of positioning-proximities and deferrals, beginnings, articulations, ends." If by the time of the Augustans, poets could presume that, "in light of what was 'normal' in the making and use of books," such reading habits were conventionalized, then surely we can presume it possible that Dickinson bore similar notions in mind when she sewed together her manuscript volumes.61 Unlike Franklin, I do not conclude that the fact that sheets within the same fascicle were copied in different years is a sign that "no fascicle-level order governed their preparation" ("Fascicles" 17). To the contrary, that she was rearranging poems after copying them suggests consciousness of intertextualities varying according to organization. Time-consuming, deliberate assembly of poems arranged other than chronologically spells premeditation and argues against their functioning merely to reduce disorder.
Perusing Emily Dickinson's "books," then, readers might (1) suppose her self-consciousness concerning the details of organization as well as the details of technique and (2) aggressively recognize (i.e., be on the lookout for) contextures among Dickinson's texts. There are several immediately identifiable types of contexture for the appearance of a Dickinson poem. For the sake of clarity, and because they are two related but different genera of documents, I will describe two notable contextures in
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which we might find the Dickinson holographs. One analyzes the contextures within the two correspondences studied for the rest of this book-to "Master" and Sue; the other analyzes contextures within the fascicles. Thus I discuss two forums for contexture: when a poem appears in a letter and when a poem appears in a fascicle. Besides the similarities between relationships within a correspondence and those within a fascicle, there are some crucial differences, not the least of which is that the sequential order of a correspondence may well be less certain than that of the books Franklin has reassembled and the most obvious of which is that Dickinson did not bind a "book" of poems and letters to a single correspondent with string but bound documents together by directing them toward a specific audience. Among the relationships and correlations we might examine in order to ponder the contexture of a poem's appearance in a letter are these: (1) where and when the poem falls in the frame of the entire correspondence to the recipient in question, and to what extent that particular sequence established by Johnson or Franklin is reliable; (2) how the poem corresponds to the individual letter in which it is enclosed; (3) how it compares with other poems in the correspondence-whether the poems are similar in subject, in form, and whether there are correlations among the poems sent to a particular correspondent; and (4) how the poem compares with types of poems sent to other correspondents. Among the relationships and correlations we might examine in order to consider the contexture of a poems appearance in a fascicle are these: (1) where does it appear in the sequence and scheme of the fascicle-is it first, last, at the center? does it bear images and themes similar to those of the poems by which it is surrounded? if it appears in a fascicle with paired poems governed by clear antitheses, but is not one of those pairs, how is it commented on and how does it comment on those correlations? (2) in what different contexts does the poem appear and how does its representation in the fascicle compare with its presentation in other fascicles or in letters? and (3) how does the contexture change when, for poems on which Dickinson left variants, one substitutes the different choices?
Adducing the rudiments of this reading strategy, one might conclude that the fascicle Franklin numbered 21 describes the career of a "poet of the portfolio."62 Like "I rose - because He sank -," almost every poem in this fascicle inverts or subverts ordinary order; and many of these lyrics are explicitly about poetrymaking. "You'll find , it when you / try to die ," inverts the expected apprehensions about dying. Death is not absolutely horrible, but is the sensible thing to do. After all, the poem argues, there are "such as went," those who passed away before, whom "You could not
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spare - you know" and dying too is the only way to see them. "I see thee better - in the Dark," inverts the notion that good things, like this "Love of Thee," for example, are best in the light, and the fascicle continues to disturb conventional assumptions.
In "This was a Poet -" the poetrymaker is so powerful that he can take "the familiar species" and does not need to invent mythic figures to fashion eternal subjects. In "They shut me up in Prose - " the apparently "still[ed]" speaker who makes a habit of mental flight looks "down upon Captivity-" and laughs. "In falling Timbers buried - " and "It would have starved a Gnat - " complement these images of empowering deprivation and prophesy Dickinson's kind of career. Buried by the falling timbers, a man breathes while others make futile attempts to rescue him. He finally dies, and, as in "You'll find - it when you / try to die - ," death is not horrible but gratifying. Death is, in fact, "Grace." As is true of that depicted in the poem, Dickinson's actual death was a kind of release, for it was only then that the volumes to posterity became widely available. Proclaiming that "It would have starved a Gnat - / To live so small as I - ," this poem's speaker asserts, like the speaker of "My life had stood - A / Loaded Gun -" (F 34), that she, unlike the gnat, is without the power to die. Her strength overwhelms her, and even when she feels she cannot, she does "begin - again - ." In these poems, strength keeps asserting itself over apparent weakness. As in her career, that which appears to be failure in the eyes of the world turns into victory. The last two poems in this fascicle plainly describe this power that, for a woman instructed to be submissive and dependent, sometimes felt alien. In a culture singing "Jesus lifted me" and preaching that woman naturally submits to man, "I rose because He sank -" inverts the usual order of woman depending on the supposedly Herculean strength of man. Like Atlas shouldering the world, the feminine speaker shoulders the helpless, fallen male. Well acquainted with the power of language, it is she, not he, who cheers, sings, and tells. Instead of man articulating experience for woman, this poem describes woman articulating the world for man. Refusing to confirm the cultural myths that perpetuate a hierarchy so stultifying for women, Dickinson articulates experience as it is, not as coercive fairy tales promise it will be. Blatantly championing her power, the female speaker of the final poem, "It was given to me by / the Gods - ," claims that multiple deities grant her talents, wealth, and strength. In a monotheistic, patriarchal culture, such a statement by a woman is multiply (and appropriately) subversive.
In this interpretive process, readers move forward and backward, following patterns created by Dickinson to make up their own instructions
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for formulating narrative or coherence. The primary project of the fascicles may well be to expose the failure of any narrative to sustain that which is outside itself. After all, any story of interpretation constructed on the evidence supplied by a fascicle cannot be maintained without the storyteller or reader. Yet whatever Dickinson's intention for the fascicles, she was most certainly aware that even for a set of disjointed texts, readers will impose narrative, for it is practically necessary to sustain interpretation.
Some Implications for Teaching
Reconceptualizing notions of "publication" to include Dickinson's circulation of her poems to her correspondents places her in an active, cultured network, and calls into serious question the prevailing image of the isolated, withdrawn poet. Her poems, letters, letter-poems, methods of production, and designs for distribution are all part of her dialogue with the world. As Harold Bloom points out, Dickinson "compels us to begin again in rethinking our relation to poems, and to the equally troubling and dynamic relations of poems to our world of appearances."63 When letters shaped like waves, arresting line breaks, and dancing or drooping dashes are no longer presumed to be accidental, propositions about the author's will unfold within and begin to guide the narrative of reading. Even teaching her in print translation, we can call our students' attention to one of the most important points of Dickinson's poetic statement-that poems are not reified objects, but artistic productions that at least implicitly comment on the very processes of reading and representation they set into motion. Perhaps using Shelley's famous proclamation idealizing mental forms or intention as a starting point for describing the processes of transmission, teachers can describe some key elements cut out of translations of Dickinson's poems in order to heighten the self-consciousness of even beginning students and introduce them to matters of textual editing too often (and I think unwisely) reserved for advanced graduate study. For example, a brief explanation of why Dickinson's rhetorical notation has been erased from typographic representations need not scold any editor for having done so, but might serve as a starting point for analyzing the sociology of texts and their print embodiments, as well as the sociology of education by giving them some sense of how the emphases of schooling have changed and will continue to change. Since diacritical marks, underscoring inflection's importance, have never been part of the poetic language shared via the print medium, they have been pre-
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judged by editors as insignificant or private, an argot not intended for or not of interest to most readers.
To elaborate the implications of that vein, teachers might impress upon students problems with overly simple notions of the individual author by asking, "Who made the poems we see on the page? Did the poet Dickinson produce those typographic marks?" Because of the inaccuracies in translating her works into print, even a critic as astutely conscientious about editorial interference as Cameron interprets a poem that Dickinson in fact never wrote. The "I tie my Hat - I crease / my Shawl -" (F 24; P 443) Cameron interrogates is that poem plus nine additional lines incorrectly attached first by Mabel Loomis Todd, then again by Thomas Johnson. Those nine lines probably belong to "A Pit - but Heaven over it -" (F 24; P 1712; see Editing 40-46), but they were not part of the poem Dickinson conceived. Analogously, some readers identified her handwritten transcription of George Herbert's "My God, what is a heart?" as Dickinson's own lyric. These misperceptions occurred because the translations of poems and letters into mass reproducible forms involve transcribers, editors, and publishing houses, thus the case of Dickinson can be used to teach students something of the collaborative processes necessary to produce printed volumes. We can hope that such knowledge will incline them to be less susceptible to being seduced by the apparent authority of the printed word and more encouraged to cultivate a healthy skepticism about matters of intention, which Dickinson herself cultivated: "The Fiction of 'Santa Claus' always reminds me of the reply to my early question of 'Who made the Bible'-'Holy Men moved by the Holy Ghost,' and though I have now ceased my investigations, the Solution is
Learning about and being continually reminded of those group coordinations necessary to produce a book, students must confront the conception of the isolated, completely self-reliant author as a humanistic fiction bound up with faith in the autonomy of the individual. In the age of television, the musical hit, and movies, appropriate analogies between Dickinson's editors and publishers and the movie, video, and record industries' producers, directors, performers, camera operators, and record technicians can be drawn to great effect. Thus like the Apostle Paul telling the Greeks about Jesus by pointing to their memorial to the Unknown God and promising to tell all about him (Acts 17:22-32), using what our young people already know so well-the Academy and Grammy awards both constantly remind their audience of the collaborative processes necessary to produce a movie or record-can greatly enhance everyone's insights
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into the social processes of authorial production and automated textual reproduction.
The case of Dickinson especially lends itself to discussion of how matters of textual reproduction are not separate from but are intertwined with hermeneutics. Because of the ways her poems have been printed, many think of Dickinson's poetic production as that of an especially talented occasional poet, as one who writes in response to life's little dramas, like Benjamin Franklin's uncle who "left behind him two Quarto Volumes, Manuscript of his own Poetry, consisting of little occasional pieces addressed to his Friends and Relations."64 The plots suggested by dismemberment of Dickinson's poems from letters and fascicles also parallel editorial reconstructions like Ted Hughes's arrangement of Ariel, which "implies that Plath's suicide was inevitable," while her own "careful sequence" (Hughes's characterization) "ends on a note of hope," and like the arrangements by Emerson, William Henry Charming, and James Freeman Clarke which distorted Margaret Fuller's personality to present her as "arrogant, aggressive," and "unattractive."65 Whether they intend to be or not, neither the reproductions of texts nor critical interpretations can be innocent of or superior to politics, since both require negotiations among authors, editors, publishers, and readers. Dickinson interpretation will be powerfully enhanced by cultivating constant awareness of the "official" repatternings of the variorum, the three-volume letters, and the separate publication of the "Master" documents. Self-consciousness about those reconstructions cannot, of course, completely negate their impact. However, cultivating reading strategies unbound, counting the scholarly order imposed by Dickinson's editorially reconstructed books as valuable but refusing to accept their patterns unquestioningly-reading, for example, each correspondence (not just one) as if it were a book-gives us far more than fresh lenses in our reading glasses. As Shelley would have it, such reading promises to imbue interpretation with Promethean power.
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2. Rowing in Eden: Reading Dickinson Reading
1. See, for example, Myra Jehlen, American Incarnation: The Individual, The Nation, and The Continent, or Annette Kolodny, The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters and The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860. For poems exploring various physical, emotional, psychic, and mental metaphors of exploration, see, on geography, "We pray-to Heaven-" (F 22; P 489), "Volcanoes be in Sicily" (P 1705); on exploration, "Baffled for just a day or two -" (F 2; P 17), "Who never lost, are unprepared / A Coronet to find!" (F 6; P 73), "Soto! Explore Thyself!" (Set 5; P 832), "I play at Riches - to appease / The Clamoring for Gold -" (F 38; P 801); on discovery, "Taking up the fair Ideal," (F 19; P 428), "Not to discover weak- / ness is" (Set 7; P 1054), "His Mansion in the Pool" (P 1379), "Eden is that old-fashioned House" (P 1657), "The largest Fire ever / known" (Set 7; P 1114), "Had we known the Ton she bore" (P 1124, variant fourth line), "This Consciousness that / is aware" (Set 6a; P 822), "Finding is the first / Act" (Set 5; P 870), "How far is it to Heaven?" (Set 7; P 929), "Because that you are going" (P 1260); and on that undiscovered, "Soto! Explore Thyself" and "You cannot take itself" (P 1351). (back to text)
6. Gwendolyn Brooks's remarks are from her reading at "A Celebration of Emily Dickinson and American Women's Poetry," Poetry-in-the-Round at Seton Hall University, April 10, 1986. In the sentence about Dickinson that follows, contemporary poet Susan Howe extends Brooks's observation in My Emily Dickinson, p. 29. Highly allusive, Dickinson often uses reference to the Bible, Milton, Shakespeare, Barrett Browning, or some other literary work to illustrate or elaborate her own expression. Sometimes she actually cuts others' texts and glues or fastens them to her own to create new, humorous texts (see chapter 3 for my critique of the "cartoon" she fashioned by attaching engravings from Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop to "A poor - torn Heart"). (back to text)
8. Richard Poirier, The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections, p. 139. "Each and all" purposely echoes Emerson's poem. Betsy Erkkila has recently ar-
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gued that "elitist, antidemocratic values were at the very center" of Dickinson's work. However, Erkkila relies on the Higginson-Todd-Bingham view of Dickinson and predicates her argument on what Higginson reported about his 1870 visit to the Homestead (L 342a). The liberal Higginson's elitist views regarding culture are well known, and Erkkila may be conflating his projections with Dickinson's own attitudes. See "Emily Dickinson and Class," pp. 14, 23. (back to text)
9. For some basic information about women's poetry and the publishing industry, see Emily Stipes Watts, The Poetry of American Women from 1632 to 1945, p. 65. Also, for extended discussion of Dickinson's cliched, conventional poetry, see Dobson, Dickinson and the Strategies of Reticence, pp. 3-5, 131-134. (back to text)
10. Jauss, Question and Answer, pp. 200, 207; for purposes of introducing these ideas to students, see also "Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory," most recently anthologized in The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, ed. David H. Richter (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), pp. 1198-1218. (back to text)
11. Shurr, The Marriage of Emily Dickinson, pp. 18-23. Rebecca West also exemplifies literary equation of sexual experience with another, paradisaical realm:
I was amazed at lovemaking. It was so strange to come, when I was nearly middle-aged, on the knowledge that there was another state of being than any I had known, and that it was the state normal for humanity, that I was a minority who did not know it. It was as if I had learned that there was a sixth continent, which nearly everybody but me and a few others had visited and in which, now I had come to it, I felt like a native, or as if there was another art as well as music and painting and literature, which was not only preached, but actually practised, by nearly everybody, though they were silent about their accomplishment. It was fantastic that nobody should speak of what pervaded life and determined it, yet it was inevitable, for language could not describe it.
From West's novel, Cousin Rosamund, quoted in The Oxford Book of Marriage, ed. Helge Rubinstein (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 162-163. (back to text)
13. Commenting on the "dance mix" versions of his own songs, which some of his fans thought violated their integrity, popular poet Bruce Springsteen unwittingly elucidates the situation of Dickinson's texts: "I was always so protective of my music that I was hesitant to do much with it at all. Now [post-Arthur Baker's dance mix production of "Dancing in the Dark"] I feel my stuff isn't as fragile as I thought." See Dave Marsh, Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987), p. 231. So Dickinson's poetry, remixed by many an editor, biographer, and critic is not so fragile as Thomas Higginson thought. He re-
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marked that her poems "reminded him of skeleton leaves so pretty but too delicate, -not strong enough to publish- . . ." (YH 2:193). (back to text)
14. The definitions of glossolalia and heteroglossia are taken from Mae Gwendolyn Henderson, "Speaking in Tongues," in Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing, ed. Cheryl A. Wall, p. 22. (back to text)
15. See Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences; Tania Modleski, "Feminism and the Power of Interpretation: Some Critical Readings," in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis, pp. 121-138; Modleski refers to Nancy K. Miller, "The Text's Heroine: A Feminist Critic and Her Fictions," Diacritics 12 (Summer 1982): 53. Biddy Martin discusses the dilemma a loss of identity poses especially for lesbians, "given the institutional privileges enjoyed by those who can afford to disavow 'identity'"; see "Lesbian Identity and Autobiographical Difference," Life/Lines: Theorizing Women's Autobiography, ed. Bella Brodzki and Celeste Schenck, p. 80. Barton St. Armand comments on Dickinson too often being viewed as an abstraction in this "Age of Theory" when he compliments Shurr's book. (back to text)
17. In "Intention," Annabel Patterson astutely discusses ideas of Foucault, Derrida, and de Man to trace recent evolutions in attitudes toward the author and notes that "even among deconstructive critics the suspicion lurks that intention cannot so easily be banished." See Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin, p. 145. (back to text)
18. This and the quotation in the next paragraph are from Mark Schulman, "Gender and Typographic Culture: Beginning to Unravel the 500-Year Mystery," in Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch, ed. Cheris Kramarae, pp. 98-115. (back to text)
19. Here I am indebted to Alicia Ostriker who, in her forthcoming Nakedness of the Fathers, discusses both a "hermeneutics of suspicion" and a "hermeneutics of indeterminacy." An excerpt from that work was presented as "Genesis, Exodus, and the Feminist Imagination," at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, Washington, D.C., December 27-30, 1989. (back to text)
20. See Barnstone, "Eve: The Mother of Ecstasy," The Poetics of Ecstasy, pp. 1-2. Appropriately, the epigraph he chooses for the book is from Emily Dickinson. Also, whatever her intention, the first two words mirror the last in Dickinson's simple declarative sentence, for Hawwah, Hebrew for Eve, derives from the verb "to be." I thank Alicia Ostriker, whose Nakedness of the Fathers brought the meaning of Eve's name to my attention. (back to text)
22. Jerome McGann, Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work, pp. 32-49. McGann declares Blake's poetics "contestatory," but ends this part of his discussion suggesting that the critique may well be adapted to the case of Dickinson. (back to text)
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24. David Porter, Dickinson: The Modern Idiom, p. 2. See also Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," p. 226: "When the age of mechanical reproduction separated art from its basis in cult, the semblance of its autonomy disappeared forever." (back to text)
25. See, for example, Hastings' poem "To Critics," Poems on Different Subjects (Lancaster, Penn.: William Dickson, 1808), p. 1. It begins
PRAY, learned Critic, don't in hasteI am indebted to Susan Stanford Friedman for calling my attention to this poem. (back to text)
26. Taking his cue from Emerson, who declared "that the most interesting department of poetry would hereafter be found in what might be called 'The Poetry of the Portfolio,'" or "the work . . . of persons who wrote for relief of their own minds, and without thought of publication," Thomas Higginson titled his first essay on Dickinson "An Open Portfolio." See The Recognition of Emily Dickinson, ed. Caesar R. Blake and Carlton F. Wells, pp. 3-10. See especially his first paragraph. See also Wolff, Emily Dickinson, p. 9. (back to text)
27. Sharon Cameron, Lyric Time: Dickinson and the Limits of Genre, p.14. See also the critics she cites, esp. Inder Nath Kher, Austin Warren, Herbert Read, Charles Anderson, and David Porter, who declares that Dickinson's "art in its range and technique never altered over three decades of writing" (Dickinson, p. 83). (back to text)
28. Howe, "Some Notes on Visual Intentionality in Emily Dickinson," pp. 11-13; such "innocence" is of course a state informed by literature ushered through the processes of mechanical reproduction which simultaneously has more possibilities (for example, of reaching a wider audience) and more limitations (for example, foreclosing experimentations to only those techniques which can be typeset). See also Howe's "Women and Their Effect in the Distance." (back to text)
30. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism, p. 100. While Tanselle is more concerned with the individual author and her intentions (though he recognizes the collaborative nature of printed works), McGann focuses more on literary sociology and critiques "the ideology of final intentions." Both are concerned that the material corporealization of a text not be confused with the text itself. (back to text)
31. Lillian Faderman has pointed out that the addressee of this poem might well be female. See "Emily Dickinson's Homoerotic Poetry," Higginson Journal 18 (1978): 19-27. For speculation that the poem may be about a stormy night Dickinson spent with Kate Anthon, see Patterson, Emily Dickinson's Imagery, p. 28. (back to text)
32. One of the most recent examples repeating the commonplace about Dickinson's form is in A. R. C. Finch, "Dickinson and Patriarchal Meter: A Theory of Metrical Codes," PMLA 102 (1987): 166-176. This article is an excellent
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analysis of Dickinson's print translations (readers should note, however, that Finch mistakenly refers to Clark Griffith as "Griffin," both in the article and her bibliography). (back to text)
33. G. Thomas Tanselle, "Response to John Sutherland," Literature and Social Practice, ed. Philippe Desan, Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, and Wendy Griswold, pp. 284, 286. Sutherland's "Publishing History: A Hole at the Centre of Literary Sociology" originally appeared in Critical Inquiry 14 (Spring 1988): 574-589. (back to text)
37. It seems most appropriate that this poetic statement does not survive in holograph. Her beloved Norcross cousins passed it along to Mabel Loomis Todd for publication in Letters of Emily Dickinson (1894). (back to text)
39. Gary Lee Stonum, The Dickinson Sublime, esp. pp. 3-21; for elaboration of the "Dickinson sublime," see pp. 110-148. For further elaboration of Faulkner's remarks, see Joseph Blotner and Frederick L. Gwynn, eds., Faulkner in the University. (back to text)
41. Ransom, "Emily Dickinson: A Poet Restored," p.89; for Ostriker's commentary on this, see Stealing the Language, p. 5; R. P. Blackmur, "Emily Dickinson: Notes on Prejudice and Fact," in The Recognition of Emily Dickinson, ed. Caesar R. Blake and Carlton F. Wells, pp, 201-223; Porter, Dickinson, pp. 83, 152. Instead of finding Dickinson's freedom enabling, Porter finds it disabling; see pp. 105-142. The fact that many, even most, find liberty formidable, even terrifying, has been widely discussed; see, for example, Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941). (back to text)
42. Cheryl Walker, "Feminist Literary Criticism and the Author," Critical Inquiry 16 (Spring 1990): 551 -571 . Subsequent quotations of Walker in this and the next few paragraphs are from this article. See also Nancy K. Miller, "Changing the Subject: Authorship, Writing, and the Reader," in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis, pp. 102-120, and, especially for discussion of concepts of author's rights and copyright law emerging in the eighteenth century, see Peggy Kamuf, Signature Pieces: On the Institution of Authorship. (back to text)
43. Stonum critiques this position in The Dickinson Sublime, p. 15; this and the subsequent quotations are from his first chapter, "A Poet without a Project? A Poetry without Scope or Structure?" pp. 3-21. (back to text)
44. For Lukacs' commentary, see The Theory of the Novel: A Historicophilosophical Essay on the Form of Great Epic Literature, trans. Anna Bostock; on the homosexual lyric, see Thomas E. Yingling, Hart Crane and the Homosexual Text: New Thresholds, New Anatomies; on Dickinson and the lyric, see Cameron, Lyric
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Time, and Margaret Dickie, Lyric Contingencies: Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. (back to text)
46. This and the subsequent commentaries by M. L. Rosenthal are from "Poems by the Packet," a review of Franklin's Manuscript Books and Porter's Dickinson, Times Literary Supplement, March 26, 1982, P. 357. (back to text)
54. From Thomas Higginson's 1891 essay on Dickinson, written for a curious public; quoted in Robert N. Linscott, ed., Selected Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson, pp. 5-24. The facsimile copy Loomis Todd and he reproduced is probably that sent to Higginson. (back to text)
55. For more discussion of Chicago, see Sandra Caruso Mortola Gilbert and Susan Dreyfuss David Gubar, "Ceremonies of the Alphabet: Female Grandmatologies and the Female Authorgraph," in The Female Autograph: Theory and Practice of Autobiography from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Domna C. Stanton, pp. 21-48. Also cited is Olga Broumas, "Artemis," Beginning with O, p. 23. (back to text)
57. James Wright's paraphrase of Frost is quoted by Neil Fraistat, The Poem and the Book: Interpreting Collections of Romantic Poetry, p. 3. Though she does not approach the fascicles in the way I do, Ruth Miller in Emily Dickinson proposed that we see them as integral units two decades ago. (back to text)
62. It may be of interest for the reader to note that in this fascicle in particu-
[---End p. 237---]lar, many, even most, of the dashes are directed down by the poet. In a poem like "It was given to me by," such strategy creates an espeically resonant irony. My readers should consult the Manuscript Books. (back to text)
65. Marjorie Perloff, "The Two Ariels: The (Re)Making of the Sylvia Plath Canon," in Poems in Their Place, ed. Fraistat, ppl 308-333; Dale Spender, "Margaret Fuller," Women of Ideas (And What Men Have Done to Them), pp. 197-212. (back to text)
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