Rowing In Eden / Edition 1

Rowing In Eden / Edition 1

by Martha Nell Smith
     
 

ISBN-10: 0292776667

ISBN-13: 9780292776661

Pub. Date: 01/01/1992

Publisher: University of Texas Press

Emily Dickinson wrote a "letter to the world" and left it lying in her drawer more than a century ago. This widely admired epistle was her poems, which were never conventionally published in book form during her lifetime. Since the posthumous discovery of her work, general readers and literary scholars alike have puzzled over this paradox of wanting to communicate

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Overview

Emily Dickinson wrote a "letter to the world" and left it lying in her drawer more than a century ago. This widely admired epistle was her poems, which were never conventionally published in book form during her lifetime. Since the posthumous discovery of her work, general readers and literary scholars alike have puzzled over this paradox of wanting to communicate widely and yet apparently refusing to publish. In this pathbreaking study, Martha Nell Smith unravels the paradox by boldly recasting two of the oldest and still most frequently asked questions about Emily Dickinson: Why didn't she publish more poems while she was alive? and Who was her most important contemporary audience?

Regarding the question of publication, Smith urges a reconception of the act of publication itself. She argues that Dickinson did publish her work in letters and in forty manuscript books that circulated among a cultured network of correspondents, most important of whom was her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. Rather than considering this material unpublished because unprinted, Smith views its alternative publication as a conscious strategy on the poet's part, a daring poetic experiment that also included Dickinson's unusual punctuation, line breaks, stanza divisions, calligraphic orthography, and bookmaking—all the characteristics that later editors tried to standardize or eliminate in preparing the poems for printing.

Dickinson's relationship with her most important reader, Sue Dickinson, has also been lost or distorted by multiple levels of censorship, Smith finds. Emphasizing the poet-sustaining aspects of the passionate bonds between the two women, Smith shows that their relationship was both textual and sexual. Based on study of the actual holograph poems, Smith reveals the extent of Sue Dickinson's collaboration in the production of poems, most notably "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers." This finding will surely challenge the popular conception of the isolated, withdrawn Emily Dickinson.

Well-versed in poststructuralist, feminist, and new textual criticism, Rowing in Eden uncovers the process by which the conventional portrait of Emily Dickinson was drawn and offers readers a chance to go back to original letters and poems and look at the poet and her work through new eyes. It will be of great interest to a wide audience in literary and feminist studies.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780292776661
Publisher:
University of Texas Press
Publication date:
01/01/1992
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Table of Contents

Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Sources
Acknowledgments
Introduction1
1To Fill a Gap: Erasures, Disguises, Definitions11
2Rowing in Eden: Reading Dickinson Reading51
3All Men Say "What" to Me: Sexual Identity and Problems of Literal Creativity97
4With the Exception of Shakespeare: Reconstructing Dickinson's Relationship with Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson129
5To Be Susan Is Imagination: Dickinson's Poetry Workshop155
6Fame Is a Fickle Food: "Sister Sue" as Producer of Poems207
Notes221
Bibliography253
Index267

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