Welcome to the Dickinson Electronic Archives (DEA), a website devoted to the study of Emily Dickinson, her writing practices, writings directly influencing her work, and critical and creative writings generated by her work. The DEA is produced by the Dickinson Editing Collective, with an executive editor, a general editor, two associate editors, a project manager, and a technical editor working collaboratively with one another and with numerous coeditors, staff, and users.
To consider the DEA a new type of critical resource, let's begin with the observation that the descriptive title of the work has, over the nearly seven years since its inception, gotten multiply pluralized -- Emily Dickinson, a name for one, has become Dickinson, surname for many; archive has become archives; and project, projects. The DEA began completely focused on the writings of Emily Dickinson, particularly those that she "published" to her contemporaries via distribution through the postal service, through family, through friendly courier, by binding them into hand-manufactured manuscript books, and leaving them behind for posterity. Of this extended "Letter to the World," Emily Dickinson asked nineteenth-century editor Thomas W. Higginson if it breathed. The multiple projects of the DEA are the witnesses the poet herself so eagerly sought -- that "Letter" of hers not only breathes but it begets, seemingly in perpetuity:
Writings by the Dickinson Family
Our priority in encoding and presentation is the physical object over the logical lexical content. The Collective is employing the highest scholarly standards in editing and encoding Dickinson's manuscripts and is preserving their transmission by means of publication and printing history in the encoding as well. Along with transcriptions and annotations, we display images of the manuscripts so that readers can enjoy her graphic productions via electronic distribution.
Revisions will frequently be made on this site, and users are encouraged to visit regularly. Please send comments and suggestions to the General Editors. User feedback is a vital part of our critical review process. Also, please review our Conditions of Use Statement for information on citation and other use of the Dickinson Electronic Archives resources.
A Guide to the Archives
The Collective wants to portray Emily Dickinson, one of the United States' most admired and popular poets and beloved nineteenth-century figures, first as a writer. We decided that the best way to do that, then, would be to show the writer at work; i.e., to display the handwritten records of her composing habits and her everyday writing routines. Although our goal is to edit and encode all of Dickinson's corpus, as well as all of the Dickinson family papers, we begin with a critical edition of Emily Dickinson's Correspondences. By gaining a more vivid and nuanced sense of the hand-to-hand circulation of her work that Dickinson and her contemporary readers witnessed, Dickinson's 21st-century readers are likely to deepen and broaden understandings of her poetic project.
Because what we found in the written record challenges things that almost everybody who's heard of Emily Dickinson "knows" about her, we chose to highlight three aspects of her creative process discovered in her manuscripts. Casual biographies of Emily Dickinson are likely to say that she was isolated, and might well say that she was morbid, crazy, did not have a sense of humor, and wrote "little poems." But her written records show that Emily Dickinson sometimes collaborated with another writer, that she sometimes reveled in a bawdy sense of humor, and that letter writing became an artistic form for her, one she exploited for poetic experimentation. Users can explore these written records and see for themselves in "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem," "Dickinson, Cartoonist," "The Letter-Poem, a Dickinson Genre," and "Mutilations: What Was Erased, Inked Over, and Cut Away."
The Collective believes this archive should be diverse in its features, deep and multifaceted in its presentation of Dickinson's writings and their effects on American culture. Our presentations thus include various literary endeavors inspired by and/or inspiring to her writing, and we welcome suggestions and proposals for developing or creating new sections of this site. Influence is still an insufficiently examined field in the study of Dickinson's reception, and is vitally important to editing her writings: therefore, included here are Writings by Susan Dickinson, Dickinson's most frequently addressed correspondent; Edward (Ned) Dickinson: Correspondence & Notebook; Titanic Operas: a Poet's Corner of Responses to Dickinson's Legacy; Titanic Operas: Poetry and New Materialities; and Contemporary Youth's Companion, featuring creative responses from high school and middle school students. Another section of the DEA is devoted to teaching practices, and features The Classroom Electric: Dickinson, Whitman, and American Culture, our co-production with the Walt Whitman Archive made possible by a generous grant from FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education).