Emily Dickinson: Fascicle 16

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Our Findings

When originally preparing this project, our team expected to be looking at the different line variations that Dickinson wrote in her Fascicle 16 and comparing them to what variation the different publications chose to use. One of our first research questions was asking how we would find a way to display all of Dickinson's variations without prioritizing one over the other to our reader. Prioritizing one variation would suggest to the reader that the prioritized line is what we prefer or suggests that this is what Dickinson would have preferred if the poems had been published during her time. However, we clearly don't know what Dickinson preferred and we want our reader to see all variations as being equally important. Prioritizing would be doing exactly what the publishers did: choosing one line over the other, potentially changing the meaning from what Dickinson would have wanted.

In order to avoid prioritizing variations, we developed buttons on our webpage so that the reader can select which variant to view. This gives the user the ability to read through the entire poem with one variation and then click to view her other variations, either side-by-side or one at a time. This gives the reader an uninterrupted way to read the poems with the different variations that Dickinson wrote. Our next question involved how we would incorporate published versions of these poems. We originally were focused on the same variations that Dickinson wrote and expected to be analyzing which variation publications used. However, after taking a closer look, it became clear that much more was changed in these poems when they were published.

Some publications made drastic changes when it came to these poems. Changes affected the following: line breaks, capitalization, punctuation, and Dickinson's famous dashes. Some publications chose to take away dashes in some instances and add them in other. Lines were broken up or put together to create different structures, and many of Dickinson's capitalized words were changed to be lowercase. A good example of these changes comes from Poem 2, which had four published versions that we looked at for this project. Atlantic Monthly and other publications that agree with its changes seem to have some of the most drastic changes, so below is a side by side comparison of Poem 2, stanza 4.

Dickinson's Fascicle 16

1: The Grave yields back her robberies
2: The Years, our pilfered Things—
3: Bright Knots of Apparitions
4: Salute us with their wings—

Atlantic Monthly

1: The grave yields back her robberies,
2: The years are pilfered things,
3: Bright knots of apparitions
4: Salute us with their wings—

When reading each of these versions, it is apparent that they will be read two different ways and this will affect the meaning that the poem holds. Dickinson capitalizes the word "Grave" in the first line so that it holds importance. Dickinson characterizes the grave with female pronouns and this seems to give the grave its own identity. Without the capitalization, the grave does not mean much more than a literal grave. Each of Dickinson's capitalized words holds meaning that this published version erases. Without the capitalization, the words blend into the rest of the poem. When capitalized, they stand on their own and draw attention to themselves.

The next big change happens in line two. When reading Dickinson's version, this line seems to suggest that the grave had stolen "our" years. Whereas when read in the published version, it just means, "The years are stolen things." This could mean that anyone in the grave had years stolen from them, where Dickinson's poem suggests that the speaker personally had years stolen. Perhaps this is meant to be fixing a mistake that they thought Dickinson had made between "are" and "our," but this change gives the line a whole new meaning.

Next, we have to tackle the issue with the dashes. Dickinson is known for her use of dashes, but this published version seems to take out most of her dashes and changes the way that we read the poem. When changing a dash to a comma, there is a difference in how long of a pause you may take when reading the poem. A dash suggests that you should pause with much more intention than if you would pause with a comma. Although this may not come across on the page, when reading the poem aloud, there is an important differentce between a comma or a dash.

One of the next problems that we faced was how we would code each poem on top of an xml file that held the original Fascicle 16 poem. Poem 2 had the most versions, with four published poems. We needed a way to represent Dickinson's original poem, any time a poem changed something that disagreed with the original, and any time that something agreed with Dickinson that may have been changed in a different publication.

To do all of this, we used rdg tags in our xml that held #id attributes for each different publication. When something was changed, we needed an app tag that held different rdg tags to represent the changes. An example of code from the above stanza can be found below.

        <l><app><rdg wit="#df16 #fh">The Grave yields back her Robberies—</rdg>
        <rdg wit="#fp #ce #am">The grave yields back her robberies,</rdg></app></l>
        <l><app><rdg wit="#df16 #fh">The Years, our pilfered Things—</rdg>
        <rdg wit="#fp #ce #am">The years are pilfered things,</rdg></app></l>
        <l><app><rdg wit="#df16 #fh">Bright Knots of Apparitions</rdg>
        <rdg wit="#ce #fp #am">Bright knots of apparitions</rdg></app></l>
        <l>Salute<app><rdg wit="#fh">,</rdg></app> us with their wings—</l>

As you can see, we have marked Dickinson's original with #df16 and all of the other publications were given their own #id. From looking at this excerpt alone, it seems as though the Final Harvest (#fh) version of the poem, seems to remain as close to the original. Whereas other poems like Atlantic Monthly (#am) seem to make the most changes. This was the case for almost all of the poems. The only publication that remained relatively close to Dickinson and tended to agree with the original variations, was Final Harvest, and the publication that tended to change the most was Atlantic Monthly and the versions that agreed with its changes. I say that Atlantic Monthly made the most changes because this is the version that was published first among these variations, in February 1929. All of the other publications that altered her work with the same changes, came after Atlantic Monthly. However, there could have been an even earlier version of this poem that made the changes first, this is just the first publication within this sample. When looking at other poems and their published editions in our sample, the earliest publication we looked at is from Poems, First Series in 1890.

In conclusion, most of the publications that we looked at for this project seem to change Dickinson's work a lot from her original manuscript. It's unclear to us how she would have published the poems had she been alive, and it seems in the best interest of the poet that we should leave them as she originally intended at the time she wrote them. It changes meaning when publications change her work and we are not getting the full experience when we read these published versions. Final Harvest seemed to stay the most true to Dickinson's original intent, whereas other publications like Centenary Edition and the Poems series held the most changes.