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Editing Whitman and Dickinson: Print and digital representations

Amanda A Gailey, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation investigates how editors transformed two figures---Walt Whitman, a highly controversial poet through the end of the nineteenth century, and Emily Dickinson, a largely unread poet until the 1890s---into the giants of the canon of nineteenth-century U.S. poetry. The first two chapters examine crucial moments in the early stages of Whitman's and Dickinson's reception, and how editors worked to situate these poets within contexts that included other authors: in Whitman's case, a New York literary newspaper, and in Dickinson's case, anthologies that sought to define a national literature. Chapter One, "Walt Whitman and the King of Bohemia," examines how Whitman's friend and editor, Henry Clapp, Jr., championed Whitman in the pages of the Saturday Press despite the mixed opinions of his readers, and consequently became key to Whitman's surge in popularity---or notoriety---shortly before the Civil War. Chapter Two, "How Anthologists Made Dickinson into a Tolerable Woman Writer," investigates how editors who included Dickinson in anthologies (from her first appearance in one in 1897 until the first publication of a scholarly edition of her works in 1955) employed a distorted version of Dickinson's biography to satisfy public tastes, notions about civic responsibility in educating youth, and dominant opinions about women's roles in both literature and society in general. ^ The final two chapters of this dissertation, "How Influential Editions Represent Dickinson's Work" and "Editing Whitman, 1902-2006," study how editors variously presented the poets' work in single-author editions. In each of these chapters, I begin by examining the first posthumous major edition of each poet, then move through the significant scholarly editions of the twentieth century, which in both poets' cases culminate in ongoing digital editions. I argue that the first posthumous editions of the poets' work were important in establishing them as major literary figures, and that subsequent editions have refrained Dickinson's and Whitman's work to make it more available to dominant modes of scholarship. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Gailey, Amanda A, "Editing Whitman and Dickinson: Print and digital representations" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3221293.