21st Century Emily Dickinson Finds a Home in the Archives

Apple TV+ series “Dickinson” won accolades Emily Dickinson’s take on her life in an absurdist, existential way makes the poet a passionate proto-feminist who is changing direction in a time as turbulent as ours. But even the most extravagant flights of fantasy have been grounded in historical science and cutting-edge literary theory, acquiring him an ardent fan base among scholars.

Now, a show from the archives returns to where it came from, – as Dickinson put it – all of Eternity.

The series, whose three seasons will conclude on December 24, is donating dozens of costumes, period furniture, and accessories to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, United States. Daily life at the Dickinson farm.

And in a different way, he donates his production archive of screenplays, costume and set designs, and paper accessories to Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Included in the exhibit are: elaborate recreations of the show from Dickinson manuscripts will be featured alongside more than 1000 From The Real Thing.

The announcement is tied to Dickinson’s birthday, which will be celebrated on Friday with a virtual party featuring poetry at both locations. artistic compliments and some possible tastes of Dickinson famous black cake (It featured prominently in an episode in Season 2).

“It’s a birthday present for Emily,” said show creator Alena Smith of the donations. He said the show’s collection was “a treasure trove of beautiful things,” and it also served its subversive point as much as its latest soundtrack and Gen-Z dialogue.

“Everything you see on the show had to be exactly perfect for the period so that the music and language could do this act of rebellion against perfection,” Smith said.

The museum’s director, Jane Wald, visited the set last spring. He thought he’d pick a few pieces. The museum bought several trucks worth of furniture, lighting fixtures, and one of the show’s more fantastical scenes: the car in which Death, played by rapper Wiz Khalifa, gets in. They will be used to furnish the house (closed for renovations until spring) in authentic 19th century style, according to a pre-existing flooring plan.

“This is a legacy blended with another that acknowledges the timeless power of Emily Dickinson’s poetry,” Wald said.

According to Christine Jacobson, deputy curator of modern books and manuscripts, the donation to Harvard’s Houghton Library is the library’s first acquisition from a television show.

Jacobson first featured Smith on Twitter in 2018 after the show got wind of it when the production asked permission to reproduce a Harvard portrait. They formed a virtual friendship (they bonded with a side passion for Russian literature), and last summer, when Smith asked if Houghton wanted material from the show, he jumped.

The collection will be useful to Dickinson scholars, but also to fans of fan culture – a space where Dickinson can catch up on ever-expanding technology thanks to the show. Jane Austen universe.

“Anyone can watch the series ‘Dickinson’ to see evidence of Dickinson’s enduring cultural resonance,” she said. “But you have to come to the library to know what the creators are thinking, what their process is, what their impact is.”

The donation to Houghton includes many elements that both document and embody the show’s high-low, old-new collage aesthetic, such as scrapbook-like “tone books” (for example, juxtaposing images of Victorian women adoring the 21st century). Brooklyn club kids) or another book showing the creation of the jerky ersatz Victorian animation of the title sequences.

Then there are the scraps of paper used to recreate the real drama of Emily’s life: her writing.

Dickinson, who died in 1886 at the age of 55, only published a handful of poems in his lifetime. But each of the show’s three seasons includes a broadcast sample, along with speculation about its circumstances and how it contributed to Dickinson’s final decision not to become famous.

The Harvard donation includes reproductions of 19th-century papers (complete with ink blots), such as the Springfield Republican newspaper that Dickinson published. “A Narrow Friend on the Grass” There are also copies of The Constellation, a fictional anti-slavery newspaper (based on Frederick Douglass’ The North Star) that Henry, an invented African American employee of the Dickinsons, secretly published from their stables.

These items had already been shown to a class in 19th-century newspapers, Jacobson said. But re-creations of Dickinson’s manuscripts—including several dozen re-creations of hand-stitched books known as fascicles—which his sister Lavinia found in a chest after her death—can set scientific hearts on fire.

“Dickinson materials are so fragile they can hardly be studied,” said Deidre Lynch, professor of English at Harvard who writes on book history and the 19th century. literary fan culture. “When the collection arrived at Houghton, it felt especially great to walk into an upstairs room and see the paper scenes of the show spread out on a table in three-dimensional and life-size.”

“The show paid great attention to the many forms in which writing might be encountered in 19th-century America,” he added.

For all its precision, the support team also made adjustments. For example, at the end of Season 1, when Emily sews her first fascicle, she puts together poems written on envelopes and oddly shaped scraps (made by Dickinson). he often wrote, especially in later life). poems in real fasciclesCopied on folded stationery sheets distributed by editors.

“When I first saw the propeller fascicles, I was very impressed,” Jacobson said. But I’m really interested in the debuts, the times when the show escaped historical records, and the reasons why.”

Smith, who is originally a playwright, said the idea for the show was really jelly on his mind when he stopped by Dickinson’s sister Lavinia’s bedroom during a visit to the museum in 2015. “I just felt some kind of spirit,” she said. “Suddenly, I had access to the tone of what this show wanted to be.”

But if it were Harvard and Amherst College (which has a large Dickinson collection and sometimes has a dispute with Harvard), it couldn’t be at the same time, he said. Copyright) had not joined forces in 2013 to create online. Emily Dickinson Archivemakes high-resolution images of manuscripts available for free to anyone, anywhere.

It was very important to be able to see Dickinson’s lyrics as he wrote them. “This has been my #1 bookmark the whole time,” Smith said.

In Season 2, “Dickinson” explored the impact of new communication technologies. Smith said the repercussions of the current streaming revolution are purely intentional.

Still, when it comes to donations, Smith (generally signed a multi-year contract. Agreement with Apple) turned down Harvard’s offer to accept digital materials that are an increasingly common part of 21st century archives.

For all the promise of the streaming model, there’s “something a little frustrating” about having a show that exists only in the cloud, Smith said.

“One of the best things for me about these two donations is that there is something tangible to touch and keep,” he said.

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