Proto Leaf: Course Description

The body of Dickinson is strange to think of. Yet how much more mysterious, how much more singular is the body of her work--the poems, letters, and other writings that survived her and that have undergone many more transformations even than her carnal remains. In this seminar we will be interested in the text as a material object; specifically, we will be interested in the ways in which Dickinson "embodied" her work--as books, as leaves, as fragments--and in how her conception of these embodiments or containers of thoughts changed over the long course of her career. In addition to exploring the different bodies of Dickinson's texts, we will attempt to encounter her in the various scenes of her writing--on the surfaces of her manuscript pages--both in order to graph her compositional processes through an exploration of the material traces of these processes and to ask questions about the psychological, aesthetic, and/or historical processes involved in the production of these traces on paper. At last, we will look at the ways later (and belated?) readers have embodied/transformed Dickinson's writings and propose options for future embodiments/transformations of her writings.


Reading. This seminar will involve in-depth reading in the works of Emily Dickinson. If at all possible, you should obtain copies of The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson, 2 vols., edited by R. W. Franklin; The Poems of Emily Dickinson, 3 vols., edited by R. W. Franklin; The Master Letters, edited by R. W. Franklin; The Letters of Emily Dickinson, 3 vols., edited by Thomas H. Johnson; The Poems of Emily Dickinson, 3 vols., edited by Thomas H. Johnson; Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith; and Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing, edited by Marta L. Werner. Seminar participants will also be required to consult the following electronic sites: Dickinson Electronic Archives; Radical Scatters: An Electronic Archive of Dickinson's Late Fragments and Related Texts and various other scholarly electronic sites. I have placed copies of the required texts on 2 hour and overnight reserve in the library.

Writing. Seminar participants will work in small groups on one of a series of web projects described in the accompanying materials. At the conclusion of the term, each group will present a collaborative report on the project it has undertaken. These oral presentations will outline the goals of the project, describe difficulties and breakthroughs in the project, and comment on future directions for research. Each seminar participant will write a paper (10-20 pages) focused primarily on the genesis of one or more Dickinson texts.

Grading Policy

Grades will be based on the quality of your written work: Group Project (50%); Final Paper/Project (50%).

Class Schedule

Week One: The Genesis of the Text.

Required Reading: Theoretical Frameworks: Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, and History" and "What Is an Author?" in The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984); Michel Pieressens, "French Genetic Studies at a Crossroads." Poetics Today 11:3 (1990): 617-625; Frank Paul Bowman, "Genetic Criticism," Poetics Today 11:3 (1990): 627-646; Laurent Jenny, "Genetic Criticism and its Myths." YFS 89 (1996): 9-25; Louis Hay, "History or Genesis?" YFS 89 (1996): 191-207; Recommended Reading: Michel Serres, Genesis. Tr. Genevieve James (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

Weeks Two & Three: Writing Otherwise: An Overview and Microanalysis of Dickinson's Compositional Process, c. 1858-1886.

Primary Reading: Examples of Dickinson's manuscripts from 1859-1886.

Secondary Reading, Required: Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," in Illuminations. Tr. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217-252; Susan Howe, "These Flames and Generosities of the Heart: Emily Dickinson and the Illogic of Sumptuary Values." Sulfur 28 (Spring 1991): 134-155; Serge Tisseron, "All Writing is Drawing: The Spatial Development of the Manuscript." YFS (1994): 29-42; Paul Crumbly, Inflections of the Pen: Dash and Voice in Emily Dickinson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996); Martha Nell Smith, "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem," Dickinson Electronic Archives; Marta L. Werner, "Hand Library," in Radical Scatters.
Secondary Reading, Recommended: Pierre Macheray, A Theory of Literary Production. Tr. Geoffrey Wall (Boston: Routledge, 1978); Michel de Certeau, "The Scriptural Economy," in The Practice of Everyday Life. Tr. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 131-153.

Review Web I

Weeks Four & Five: Dickinson and the Dialectics of Binding and Unbinding: Fascicles and Sets.

Primary Reading: Fascicles 1, 2, 10, 11, 15, 16, 34, 40; Sets 1, 7, 11, 15.
Secondary Reading, Required: R. W. Emerson, "New Poetry," in Emerson, Uncollected Writings: Essays, Addresses, Poems, Reviews, and Letters, ed. Charles C. Bigelow (New York: Lamb, 1912); first published in the Dial (October 1840): 220-32; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Preface," Poems, eds. Mabel Loomis Todd and T. W. Higginson (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1890), iii.; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "An Open Portfolio," Christian Union 42 (September 25, 1890): 392-3, reprinted in Caesar R. Blake and Carlton F. Wells, eds., The Recognition of Emily Dickinson: Selected Criticism since 1890 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968), 3-10; R. W. Franklin, "Introduction," in The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1981), ix-xxii; M. L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall, "What are the Fascicles," in The Modern Poetic Sequence: The Genius of Modern Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 45-73; Barton Levi St. Armand, "Keepsakes: Mary Warner's Scrapbook," in Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul's Society (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 13-38; Sharon Cameron, Choosing Not Choosing: Dickinson's Fascicles (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992)* Readings in Cameron will continue in week 6.
Secondary Reading, Recommended: Katherine Morrison McClinton, Antiques of American Childhood (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1970), 124-34; Dorothy Oberhaus, Emily Dickinson's Fascicles: Method & Meaning (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996); Gabrielle Dean, "Poetry of the Portfolio: Dickinson's Fascicles," forthcoming in Text.

Week Six: Heteroglossia: Dickinson's Textual Variants.

Primary Reading: The poems for discussion will be drawn from the fascicles and sets discussed in Weeks Four and Five.
Secondary Reading, Required: Jerome J. McGann, "Introduction: Modernism and the Renaissance of Printing, with Particular Reference to the Writing of Yeats, Stein, and Dickinson," in Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 3-42; Peter Robinson, "Is There a Text in These Variants?" in The Literary Text in the Digital Age. Ed. Richard J. Finneran (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 99-116. We will continue to use Cameron's insights in our discussions.

Weeks Seven & Eight: Reading Dickinson's Poems. Primary Reading (Note: Poems for close reading to be selected by seminar participants):

"One Sister have I in the house -," "My Wheel is in the dark!" (fascicle 2); "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" (fascicle 6); "All overgrown by cunning moss," "The Daisy follows soft the Sun -" (fascicle 7); "A Wounded Deer - leaps highest -," "At last, to be identified!," "I have never seen 'Volcanoes' -," "As if some little Arctic flower" (fascicle 8); "Bound - a trouble -," "I'm 'wife' - I've finished that -," "Two swimmers wrestled on the spar -," "Some - keep the Sabbath - going to Church -," (fascicle 9); "Come slowly - Eden!," "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -" (fascicle 10); "Rearrange a Wife's affection!," "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!" (fascicle 11); "There's a certain Slant of light," "Of Bronze and Blaze -" (fascicle 13); "The first Day's Night had come -," "We will grow accustomed to the Dark -," "If I may have it, when it's dead" (fascicle 15); "Before I got my eye put out -," "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain" (fascicle 16); "I would not paint - a picture -," "It was not Death, for I stood up," "I felt my life with both my hands," "A Bird came down the Walk -" (fascicle 17); "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" (fascicle 18); "Dare you see a soul at the 'White Heat'?," "The Soul selects her own Society," "Mine - by the Right of the White Election!" (fascicle 20); "They shut me up in Prose -," "This was a Poet - It is That," "I died for Beauty - but was scarce," "At last - to be identified -" (fascicle 21); "Because I could not stop for Death -" (fascicle 23); "This is my letter to the World" (fascicle 24); "I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -" (fascicle 26); "A Dying Tiger - moaned for Drink -" (fascicle 28); "I took my Power in my Hand -," "The Martyr Poets - did not tell -," "I cross till I am weary" (fascicle 30); "Tis One by One - the Father counts -," "To fill a Gap" (fascicle 31); "Like Eyes that looked on Wastes -," "A Wife - at Daybreak - I shall be -" (fascicle 32); "The Way I read a Letter's - this -" (fascicle 33); "Bereavement in their death to feel," "My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -," "These - saw Visions -," "Strong Draughts of Their Refreshing Minds," "Essential Oils - are wrung -" (fascicle 34); "Four Trees - upon a solitary Acre -," "Publication - is the Auction" (fascicle 37); "She rose to His Requirement - dropt" (fascicle 38); "The Birds begun at Four o'clock -" (fascicle 39); "A nearness to Tremendousness," "Till Death - is narrow Loving -" (fascicle 40); "The Soul's distinct connection," "Split the Lark - and you'll find the Music -," "Finding is the first Act," "I stepped from Plank to Plank," "The Poets light but Lamps -" (set 5); "Let down the Bars, Oh Death -," "Crisis is a Hair," "At Half past Three, a single Bird -," "Perception of an Object costs" (set 6); "Two Travellers perishing in the Snow" (set 7); "Somehow myself survived the Night" (set 8); "The Sea said 'Come' to the Brook -" (set 11); "September's Baccalaureate" (set 15).

Weeks Nine & Ten: Writing at the Antipodes: Dickinson's Late Drafts and Fragments.

Primary Reading: Dickinson's drafts and fragments; see Radical Scatters: Dickinson's Late Fragments and Related Texts For printed sources of the fragments, see also: Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham, "Fragments," in Bolts of Melody (1945); Millicent Todd Bingham, Emily Dickinson: A Revelation (New York: Harper, 1954); Millicent Todd Bingham, "Prose Fragments of Emily Dickinson," NEQ XXVIII (1955); Thomas H. Johnson, "Prose Fragments of Emily Dickinson," in The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958); and Marta L. Werner, Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).
Secondary Reading, Required: Jeanne Holland, "Scraps, Stamps, and Cut-outs: Emily Dickinson's Domestic Technologies of Publication," in Cultural Artifacts and the Production of Meaning. Ed. Margaret J. M. Ezell and Katherine O'Brien O'Keefe (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994); Pierre-Marc De Biasi, "What is a Literary Draft? Toward a Functional Typology of Genetic Criticism," YFS 89 (1996): 26-58; Marta Werner, "'Most Arrows': Autonomy and Intertextuality in Emily Dickinson's Late Fragments." Text (1997);
Secondary Reading, Recommended: Hans-Jost Frey, Interruptions. Tr. Georgia Albert (Albany: SUNY, 1996).

Review Web II

Weeks Eleven & Twelve: The Inscription, Transcription, and Erasure of Desire.

Primary Reading: The Master Letters. Ed. R. W. Franklin (Amherst: Amherst College Press, 1986); Dickinson's letters to Susan Gilbert Dickinson; Dickinson's letters to T. W. Higginson. Secondary Reading, Required: Paula Bennett, My Life a Loaded Gun: Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 28-55; Ellen Louise Hart, "The Encoding of Homoerotic Desire: Emily Dickinson's Letters and Poems to Susan Dickinson, 1850-1886." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 9:2 (1990): 251-272; Martha Nell Smith, Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), sections on SHGD. Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith (Ashfield, Mass.: Paris Press, 1998). See also: Dickinson Electronic Archives.
Secondary Reading, Recommended: Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments. Tr. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978); Linda Kauffman, The Discourse of Desire: Gender, Genre, and Epistolary fictions (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986).

Review Web III

Week Thirteen: The Poetics of the Archive.

Reading: Reading the Archive: On Texts and Institutions. Special Issue: Yale French Studies 77 (1990); The Poetics of the Archive. Special Issue: Studies in the Literary Imagination 32.1 (Spring 1999).

Review Web IV

Weeks Fourteen-Fifteen: Workshops/Presentations

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