S.Howe Syllabus: Major Authors Emily Dickinson SYLLABUS English Spring #684
1992 : Susan Howe
Major Authors. Emily Dickinson.

"Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

"The winged words on which my soul would pierce
Into the height of Love's rare Universe,
Are chains of lead around its flight of fire--" (Shelley--"Epipsychidion")

You ask me what/my flowers said-/ then they were disobedient- I gave them messages-They said what the lips in the West, say, / when the sun goes/ down, and so says/ the Dawn--Listen again, Master-- (Dickinson 2nd Master Letter)

Certain Slants Of Light rare in Lake Effect Weather
Amherst New York
WINTERSPRING semester 1992

Required Texts:
Final Harvest: The Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson in paperback. Preferably the hardback three volume edition The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Harvard University Press. (This is too expensive for most and it will be on reserve at the library.)
The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson, edit by Ralph Franklin, Amherst College Press.
The Norton Critical Edition of Shelley's poetry and prose preferably the Norton.

Highly recommended:
The Textual Condition; Jerome McGann, Princeton U Press, 1991. This New Yet Unapproachable America; Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein; Stanley Cavell, Living Batch Press,1989Foucault/Blanchot, Zone Books, 1987, Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation, Susan Stewart, Oxford U Press, 1991, Peregrinations, Lyotard, The Space of Literature, Maurice Blanchot, U of Nebraska Press, 1982, Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva, Helene Cixous, U of Minn Press, 1991. Bottom on Shakespeare, Louis Zukofsky, University of California Press.

The Textual Condition, Peregrinations, and This New Yet Unapproachable America have been ordered and should be at Talking Leaves. Everyone should have on hand the King James Version of the Bible.

Recommended and on Library Reserve:
The most important books for this seminar are far too expensive for students to buy. We are very lucky that by a miracle Lockwood has the new Bodleian Ms Shelleys. A group of them are now on reserve as well as The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson edited by Ralph Franklin. Students will be responsible for making what xerox copies are required there.
Poems by Emily Dickinson edited by two of her Friends, T.W. Higginson, and Mabel Loomis Todd. The Complete Poems of ED and the Complete Letters of ED both edited by T.H. Johnson, Harvard University Press.
Poems, 1890-1896, Gainsville Florida; Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints, "A Facsimile reproduction of original volumes edited by George Monteiro.
The Life of Emily Dickinson, Richard Sewall, NY Farrar Straus and Giroux.
Emily Dickinson, Cynthia Griffin Woolf.
Emily Dickinson, Helen McNeil, Virago Press.
This Brief Tragedy; Unraveling the Todd-Dickinson Affair, John Evangelist Walsh, Grove Weidenfeld. (currently in the clutches of Marta but on call).
Lyric Time; Dickinson and the Limits of Genre. Sharon Cameron, John Hopkins U Press.
A Concordance to the Poems of Emily Dickinson; S. P. Rosenbaum. Cornell.
Emily Dickinson: Critical essays on: edit with an intro by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, NY.
Emily Dickinson and her Culture: The Soul's Society, Barton Levi St. Armand. Cambridge Univ Press.
Dickinson and the Romantic Imagination, Joan Feit Diehl, Princeton Univ Press.
Women Writers and Poetic Identity, Margaret Homans.
There are innumerable books about Dickinson. I have a further list for those who need one but I am sure the computer lists more than I can.
Modern Painters, John Ruskin (5 volumes)
Modern Painters, edited and abridged by David Barrie
Ruskin's Drawings: Nicholas Penny. Oxford, Phaidon
The Complete Poetical Works of P.B. Shelley, edit William Michael Rossetti, Neville Rogers, Oxford.


1. Each week a written reaction--typed-- a page or two--brief--to the reading or to class discussion from week before. These can be in the form of a poem, a list of quotations, a discussion with me or with the discussion and this seminar it could also included an edited version of a Dickinson poem with your reasons for the way you have chosen to edit it--the written reaction could also be to the Shelley Manuscripts--this offers you a lot of freedom to experiment but is not meant to be time consuming. Two copies of these please. One for me and one that I can put into a packet for each of you to read if you wish.

2. One class presentation. At least 15 minutes long. (not more than 25 min) We will discuss these during our first meeting. During this seminar it would be helpful to have some of you explore general theories of textual practise, others might like to concentrate on one poem--a close reading and attempt at editing it--a history of the editing of one particular poem. Or some essay on poetics applied to ideas we are exploring. The presentation can also be the beginnings of your final paper.

3. One final paper 15-20 pages.

I am trying something new this seminar and am in the process of following ideas myself. What I am concerned with is the idea of originality, final versions, what gets lost when a poem enters into a political economy of values, what is found, what it means to be a visionary poet--is there such a thing? How does editing change a poem? There aren't that many markers or sources so we will add things as we find them. Therefore I can't supply a definitive reading list for each week. I have xeroxed a master copy of fascicle 31, but you can also obtain your own and you will have to make your own copies of the other poems we read. from the Franklin edition on reserve. You will have to match the Johnson versions to the Franklin.


No seminar on March 24. I will be away that week. Also the last seminar May 5th I will be away. So we will have to re-schedule at least one of these.

January 21:
Introduction. Discussion of purpose of seminar. We will arrange for presentations at that time. Discussion of Dickinson's biography
Assignment: Read Shelley's "Defence of Poetry" and "Preface to Adonais." Browning's "An Essay on Percy Bysshe Shelley, "

January 28:
Discussion of Essays and how we might be apply them to thinking about Dickinson's writing.
Assignment: Melville's essay "Hawthorne and His Mosses. " Gertrude Stein's essay "What is English Literature" Also "Letter from Hart Crane to Harriet Monroe" with poem "At Melville's Tomb."
Look carefully at Bodleian Shelley Ms volume VII read the introduction. Then look at the Defence of Poetry in that version also read his introduction to Adonais and the version in that ms book--skim through.

February 4:
Discussion of Stein and Melville essays and the Shelley in the ms version. First presentation hopefully on McGann's "A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism."
Assignment: Dickinson Fascicle 31. I have xeroxed a master copy but you can also obtain your own from the Franklin edition on reserve. You will have to match the Johnson versions to the Franklin.

February 11:
Discussion of first half of "F 31" Including ideas as to whether these are series poems or not? Or does it matter?
Assignment: Reality and it's Shadow ch 1 Collected Philosophical Papers, Emmanuel Levinas, Robert Duncan Essay from Maps. "Against Interpretation," by Susan Sontag.

February 18:
Discussion of second half of "F 31" and issues of landscape in poetry, idea of these poems as visual productions.
Assignment: Read chapter 7 in Barton Levi St Armand's Emily Dickinson and her Culture. "The Truth of Sky, "The Dark Mirror" vol I , "Of Imagination Penetrative" ch 3 vol II in Ruskin's Modern Painters. Look at Shelley's drawings in the ms edition of Prometheus Unbound or in Julian and Maddalo.

February 25:
Discussion ofsecond half of 31, and ideas in Ruskin essays etc.
Assignment: poems (first lines) "Promise this--when you /be dying," "I think to Live--may be a Bliss" "Her sweet turn--to leave" "A man may make/a Remark" " This World is not conclusion" "I cannot live with you," "Size circumscribes --it has/ no room.""Glee the great storm is over--"

March 3th:
Discussion of poems
Assignment: "No Crowd that has occurred, " and "Beauty be not caused/It is--, "(same page F 30) , "The Spirit is the conscious/ Ear," "Each Life converges to some Centre," I've seen balloons but / havent you?" "The Zeroes taught us --Phosophorus," Remorse--is Memory awake" "Renunciation--is a piercing/ Virtue," "Expectation -is contentment-" "My soul accused me--and I quailed,"

March 17:
Discussion of poems read. We miss seminar 24 I am away so you have double reading.
Assignment: vol 4 ch III "Of Turnerian Light," "The Mountain Glory," vol 4, ch XX, "The Cloud Flocks," " The Cloud-Chariots?" "The Angel of the Sea." "The Two Boyhoods," " The Dark Mirror" "Peace" all in vol V Modern Painters. and late poems of Dickinson. Since I am away March 24 extra time for all this reading. All these of course to be read carefully in Franklin. "The Past is such/ a curious," "The Sea said "Come," "The mountains/ stood in Haze," "Step lightly," "An honest tear," "Because my Brook is fluent," "To make Routine," "To disappear* ," * All three poems in Set 11, 2 in set 12, Set 14, think about the difference in appearance between these and earlier poems. Edit one poem in Set 11. How would you do it.

March 31: Discussion of poems that you have edited. And assigned reading.
Assignment: Chapters from Peregrinations by Lyotard, Shelley's Epipsychidion, in Norton or Collected and introduction to vol VII ms version. Think about Lyotard chapters in relation to Shelley ms and Dickinson ms

April 7: Spring (ha) but hope of it Shelley and his love poem--Dickinson's use of it-- Some discussion about love poetry (Shakepeare's sonnets one or two again--George Herbert's kind of love--) and Letters.
Assignment: Dickinson's poem "The Way I read a Letter's-this." Dickinson's Three Master Letters --maybe Melville's Letters to Hawthorne. just to remind you that there are various kinds of love.

April 14: Discussion of the Master Letters.
Assignment: "Poetry, Passion, and History," ch 4 of Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva by Helene Cixous. Some chapters from Tales of Love, Julia Kristeva,

April 21: More discussion on Master Letters.
Assignment: Look at the Shelley ms books once again and also the Dickinson ms books. What are the differences--in production. Think how you would do it if you had do edit such an edition. "The Father's No." by Foucault in Poetry, Language, Thought. This introduces Holderlin to our manuscript discussions. Other Dickinson Letters particularly those to Susan Gilbert Dickinson and Judge Lord.

April 28: Marta Werner will discuss Letters to Judge Lord--poems/letters which is what and talk about some of her research at Amherst. Discussion of the letters and of the Foucault essay perhaps.
Assignment: Papers due May 5.