Date Thesis Awarded

5-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Jennifer Putzi

Committee Members

Elizabeth Barnes

Nancy Schoenberger

Jessica Stephens

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the role which variation plays in the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Dickinson used textual variation within her work to create multiple versions of the same poem, often modifying a single word, phrase, or stanza between versions. Many of these variant versions appear in letters to her family and friends, or in the context of her fascicles, which served as her own personal version of publication. As Dickinson titled very few of her poems, scholars refer to each of them by their first lines, thus assuming that all poems sharing a first line are versions of the same poem. Though scholars have considered Dickinson’s poems in conjunction with her letters and personal publication practices, as well as in relation to her variants and manuscripts, none have considered that Dickinson could have used shared first lines among poems not as a mechanism for indicating that the poems are the same, but instead as a means of putting the poems in conversation with one another – to highlight their similarities, but also their differences – with the intention of placing meaning within that tension. My research focuses on four cases studies, each consisting of a pair of poems. Each of these pairs share only a few lines or words with their companion poem, something my research will show indicates that these poems are not versions of one another but are instead distinct poems. My research also calls into question the system of referring to Dickinson poems by their first line, as well as the function of her variants and editing practices.

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