- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Univ of Massachusetts Pr (March 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1558491694
- ISBN-13: 978-1558491694
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,625,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Emily Dickinson Handbook Hardcover – March 1, 1999
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The edition I bought was first published in 1998 and was slightly updated in 2005. It contains 22 new essays (including an introduction by the great Dickinson biographer Richard Sewall). The essays are the work of many of the most-published Dickinson-scholarship authors of the last few decades. All the 20- to 30-page essays are scholarly, but all but one avoid the dense impenetrability that too many other literary scholars seem to find necessary in order to get tenure. That makes this book well worth your time.
Essays range widely, including an overview of biographical studies, the poet's historical context, her manuscripts, and her letters. In addition, about half the book deals with Dickinson's poetics and her reception and influence.
The essays don't waste a lot of time chin-rubbing about Emily's possible lesbian love, or just who the "master" is. Instead, they discuss just what you want to know, including what I consider the best-ever reading of "My Life had stood - a / Loaded Gun" in an essay by Margaret H. Freeman. (Is there a Dickinson scholar who hasn't tackled that enigma?)
"The Emily Dickinson Handbook" also contains an impressive bibliography for those moved to dive into the poetry and her strange and wonderful genius. It is now (December, 2007) 121-plus years after her death. Criticism of her work has matured, especially in the last few decades, but it remains fascinating and delightfully unfinished. This is a great way to catch up.
For anyone who is seriously interested in Emily Dickinson, this is a marvelous book that provides up-to-date information about her life and works, her letters and manuscripts, the cultural climate of her age, her reception and influence, and what is going on in current Dickinson scholarship.
The book's 22 essays have been distributed in eight sections : Introduction; Biography; Historical Context; The Manuscripts; The Letters; Dickinson's Poetics; Reception and Influence; New Directions in Dickinson Scholarship.
Although I've read many critical collections, several of which were devoted exclusively to Dickinson, I can't remember ever having been so impressed. Usually an anthology will hold one or two outstanding contributions, with the rest being humdrum and of little real interest, but here pretty well all of them are outstanding, and I found only one that struck me as being both pretentious and obscure.
I was especially impressed by Robert Weisbuch's brilliant 'Prisming Dickinson, or Gathering Paradise by Letting Go,' by Josef Raab's 'The Metapoetic Element in Dickinson,' by Martha Nell Smith's 'Dickinson's Manuscripts,' by Paul Crumbley's 'Dickinson's Dialogic Voice,' by Roland Hagenbuchle's 'Dickinson and Literary Theory,' and in fact by many others. So much so that this seems to me the single most valuable book on Dickinson that I've ever seen, and the one from which I've learned most and continue to learn. It really is that good.
The book is bound in a full strong cloth, stitched, beautifully printed on excellent strong smooth ivory-tinted paper, has clearly been designed to withstand the heavy use it will be getting, and is excellent value for money. No serious student of Emily Dickinson should be without it. Weisbuch's essay, serving as it does to provide one with a whole new way of understanding ED, is pretty well worth the price of the book itself.
So don't pass this one up! It's a gem!