Emily Dickinson's Open Folios

Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing
Marta L. Werner
Undertakes a radically new model of critical editing


Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing is a fine facsimile edition and aesthetic exploration of a group of forty late drafts and fragments hitherto known as the "Lord letters." The drafts are presented in facsimile form on high-quality paper alongside typed transcriptions that reproduce as fully as possible the shock of script and startling array of visual details inscribed on the surfaces of the manuscripts.

Werner argues that a redefinition of the editorial enterprise is needed to approach the revelations of these writings—the details that have been all but erased by editorial interventions and print conventions in the twentieth century. Paradoxically, "un-editing" them allows an exploration of the relationship between medium and messages. Werner's commentary forsakes the claims to comprehensiveness generally associated with scholarly narrative in favor of a series of speculative and fragmentary "close-ups"—a portrait in pieces. Finally, she proposes the acts of both reading and writing as visual poems.

A crucial reference for Dickinson scholars, this book is also of primary importance to textual scholars, editorial theorists, and students of gender and cultural studies interested in the production, dissemination, and interpretation of works by women writers.

This publication has been supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Marta L. Werner received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York-Buffalo. She is an independent scholar and a member of the Emily Dickinson Editing Collective.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is remarkable and stimulating reading--not for what Werner teaches about Emily Dickinson, but for what she invites the reader to contemplate about the poet and the act of literary creation. The book is a 'meditation' on 40 short drafts and fragments by Dickinson of writings associated with Judge Otis Lord, the man she loved late in her life. Werner considers less the meaning of the words written, and more the paper on which they were written, the blurred pencil marks, the smudges, the actual shapes of words, lines, and phrases written in the poet's own hand. Along the way the author casts doubt and suspicion on all previous efforts at editing Dickinson--including the Thomas H. Johnson edition of her writings, traditionally considered definitive--which have ignored the unique and historical specifics of the manuscripts themselves in an effort to regularize Dickinson's writing for publication."
  • "This bold and revealing presentation of the so-called 'Lord letters,' some forty drafts and fragments Dickinson wrote late in life (and all reproduced here in facsimile form along typed transcriptions) is a stunning affirmation of the insights textual scholarship can bring to literary understanding as well as a sobering reminder that manuscript texts are subject to the question of process and dynamic interpretation."
    --Nineteenth-Century Literature

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 328pp.
  • over 100 b&w facsimiles.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1996
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10586-1

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  • $94.95 U.S.