Debates about editorial proprieties have been at the center of Emily Dickinson scholarship since the 1981 publication of the two-volume Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson, edited by Ralph W. Franklin. Many critics have since investigated the possibility that autograph poems might have primacy over their printed versions, and it has been suggested that to read Dickinson in any standard typographic edition is effectively to read her in translation, at one remove from her actual practices. More specifically, it has been claimed that line arrangements, the shape of words and letters, and the particular angle of dashes are all potentially integral to any given poem's meaning, making a graphic contribution to its contents. In Measures of Possibility, Domhnall Mitchell sets out to test the hypothesis of Dickinson's textual radicalism, and its consequences for readers, students, and teachers, by looking closely at features such as spacing, the physical direction of the writing, and letter-shapes in hand-written lyric and epistolary texts. Through systematic contextualization and cross-referencing, Mitchell provides the reader with a critical apparatus by which to measure the extent to which contemporary approaches to Dickinson's autograph procedures can reasonably be formulated as corresponding to the poet's own purposes.
Domhnall Mitchell is professor of nineteenth-century American literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim. He was the recipient of a Houghton Library Fellowship from Harvard in 2001 and a Copeland Fellowship from Amherst College in 2002. Mitchell's other work includes Emily Dickinson: Monarch of Perception.
"In this admirable and ambitious study, Domhnall confronts the thorny question of whether any set of editing practices can adequately represent in print the distinctive characteristics of Emily Dickinson's writing.... This book will do for our generation of Dickinson scholars what Franklin's The Editing of Emily Dickinson did in the wake of the Johnson edition, but it will draw a lot more attention because editing issues now claim a tremendous amount of attention in ways that force everyone who proposes to write on Dickinson (or perhaps even to teach her poems) to arrive at some sort of considered justification for individual choices. This will be an important and timely book - and a controversial one." - Jane Donahue Eberwein, editor of An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia; "Domhnall Mitchell's critical persona is witty and humane, engaging and astute.... the book is sure to have a major impact on Dickinson studies and on editorial politics and practices further afield." - Vivian Pollak, author of Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender"
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