EVENT Mar 11
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Emily Dickinson and Popular Culture (NeMLA)

Philadelphia, PA
Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA
Categories: American, Gender & Sexuality, Women's Studies, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century
Event Date: 2021-03-11 to 2021-03-14 Abstract Due: 2020-09-30


Primary Area / Secondary Area

American/Diaspora / Women's and Gender Studies


Melissa Mentzer (Central Connecticut State University)


This panel explores the various meanings and examples of the interactions of Emily Dickinson, her work and popular culture. Dickinson scholars continue to explore the ways in which Dickinson was influenced by and used her contemporary culture. She commented on and re-envisioned cultural ideas, productions and forces around her in her poetry and her letters. Contemporary culture from a variety of areas and in wide-ranging developments became the material of some of her poems. During her life, Emily Dickinson began to herself become part of local popular culture as legends were circulated about her and the myth-making began. This, of course, continues today. People speculate on possible reasons for her life choices including illnesses. One of the scholarly works that attempts to explain Dickinson’s behavior and find clues in the poetry is Lyndall Gordon’s biography Lives Like Loaded Guns. Gordon argues that Dickinson had epilepsy.

Emily Dickinson is now the lead character in the films A Quiet Passion and Wild Nights with Emily. She is the subject of the Apple TV series Dickinson, and of the graphic book by Rosanna Bruno titled The Slanted Life of Emily Dickinson: America’s Favorite Recluse Just Got a Life. Artistic adaptations of her poems appear on artists’ websites such as Russel Dickerson’s Dark Storm Creative website. Etsy.com has pages of Dickinson inspired artwork.

What do these developments mean for Dickinson studies and for the legacy of Dickinson? How are current literary theories intersecting with Emily Dickinson and popular culture, and what can this possibly tell us about gender and the bifurcation of art and popular art, culture and popular culture in the 19th century and today?


This panel calls for papers on varying aspects of Emily Dickinson and popular culture, including the ways in which Dickinson used her contemporary cultural ideas, forces and developments in her poetry and letters. Papers could address Dickinson becoming part of her local popular culture during her lifetime, and the current examples of Dickinson as a leading character in films, the TV series Dickinson, graphic books, art and multi-media works, including the art on the commercial site Etsy.com.


Melissa Mentzer