Major Women Writers, 1789-1890: Emily Dickinson in Film and TV--Writing Intensive (blended)

ENGLSH 4188W/7188
Section 01
Aliki Barnstone
12:30-1:45pm Tuesdays; Thursdays online
Course Description

Cross listed with WGST 4188-01/7188-01 and FILMS_VS 4005-01

In this Writing Intensive course on Emily Dickinson, we will combine close readings with delineating the mythologies about Dickinson’s texts and life across time. We will look at representations of the poet’s life and work in the media and the ways the mythologies about her are inextricable from the way her work is edited and published. That mythology is based on the historical contexts in which the poet wrote and also on the eras in which others presented her life and work in their editions, scholarship, and media. The Emily Dickinson Museum states that between 1890 and 2016 there were 21 editions of her work but this accounting doesn’t include the print and digital editions of Susan Howe, Marta Werner, and Martha Nell Smith whose textual scholarship on Dickinson’s handwritten manuscripts reveal their value as art in and of themselves and the ways print versions her poems and letters are shaped by the editor’s biases and sometimes, as in the case of her first editors, Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, their “mutilations,” as Martha Nell Smith puts it.

In our exploration of the mythology of Dickinson and how it relates to the editing and publication of her work, we’ll work backward from “Wild Nights with Emily” and some episodes of the Apple TV series “Dickinson.” We’ll also talk about the work of recovery of marginalized writers, editing, and publication, and the parallels with and contrast between the recovery and publication of Dickinson’s work. We’ll study the surrounding culture and the interdictions against education for women and their taking on professions other than those deemed in the “women’s sphere, as well as some of the ways that Emily Dickinson, had privilege and choices that few others to make “a room of her own” and develop her art.

The writing will be fun writing prompts, a notebook, and a final project that can consist of a collection of your short writings with a preface, a video, a comic, a photo essay, an anthology of your favorite poems by Dickinson or by Dickinson and her contemporary sister writers with a short introduction. The editing project is particularly important to me because I am an editor myself and also because you have a role in canon formation and that you can choose to make your role active and advance social and art justice. I also offer students who are planning to apply to graduate school in the humanities the opportunity to write a research paper with my mentorship the semester and beyond. My pedagogy is based on choice. I will give you a menu of readings, resources, and writing prompts so that you can enjoy and make the most our time together, using your passions, talents, and chosen career path to come up with a meaningful closure for the course.