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The Dickinson Electronic Archives is seeking proposals for its third volume: Emily Dickinson's Reading Culture. The proposal deadline is October 15th. Read the full CFP, including submission details, below.




Emily Dickinson’s Reading Culture

“For Poets-I have Keats-and Mr and Mrs Browning. For Prose - Mr Ruskin - Sir Thomas Browne - and the Revelations.”

                                    —Letter to T. W. Higginson, 25 April 1862

Why should we care what Emily Dickinson really read or about her relationship to reading, books, and authors? In Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s Atlantic article for “young contributors”—the article that prompted Dickinson’s account of her reading, oft-cited, and her subsequent correspondence with Higginson—he noted: “For purposes of illustration and elucidation, and even for amplitude of vocabulary, wealth of accumulated materials is essential; and whether this wealth be won by reading or by experience makes no great difference.” For Dickinson, separated by location, situation, and temperament from the “wealth of… experience” that presumably characterized the lives of many professional writers, this counsel must have seemed pure balm. If she could write from the “wealth… won by reading,” then, as a dedicated reader, she would be on firm ground. Emily Dickinson’s reading  provided a vital foundation for her writing. 

Dickinson’s reading is also significant on its own merits, however, as a practice that connected her directly and powerfully to a community of readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Dickinson’s reading has been on the critical agenda since 1966, when Jack Capps published Emily Dickinson’s Reading, 1836-1886; it was next taken up by Carlton Lowenberg in Emily Dickinson’s Textbooks (1986). Both Capps and Lowenberg were engaged bibliographers, documenting the worlds of books that Dickinson inhabited at home and at school. But as the idea of Dickinson’s circle has evolved, so has the idea of her reading culture. The recognition of reading’s role in Dickinson’s writing has led to an explosion of critical interest in this topic, as exemplified by the special issue on reading in the Emily Dickinson Journal (2010). As scholarship on nineteenth-century reading practices, libraries, and book history has grown, a reconsideration of Dickinson as a reading writer and a reader is timely.

Volume Three of the Dickinson Electronic Archives 2 will focus on Emily Dickinson’s reading culture. We invite proposals for works that examine topics such as:

·  the circulation of works in manuscript and other informal patterns of reading and reception;

·  the origins, development, and use of the Dickinson family libraries;

·  reading in Amherst town and at Amherst College;

·  trans-Atlantic publishers’ adaptations to a changing marketplace;

·  intersections between women writers and readers;

·  periodicals and subscribers in the mid- to late nineteenth century;

·  the response to particular books or periodicals among members of Dickinson’s circle.

Contributions may take the form of essays, bibliographies, timelines, games, posters, or other genres, but should contain visual elements.  Visual elements, in addition to appearing within their native contributions, will be assembled into a collective exhibition at the core of the volume.

The deadline for proposals is October 15, 2013.  Please send proposals of 500-1000 words, with your contact information, by email attachment to the volume editor.  Contributors whose proposals are accepted will be notified by November 1, 2013.  Final contributions will be due March 31, 2014. The volume will be released in July 2014.

Send questions and proposals to:


Gabrielle Dean, PhD

Curator of Literary Rare Books & Manuscripts

Johns Hopkins University

3400 North Charles Street

Baltimore MD 21218