• “Invisible, as Music – ”: Sheet Music and Communication in the Dickinson Family

    Samantha Landau (see profile)
    Women authors, American, Nineteenth century, Culture--Study and teaching, Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886, Music, Music and literature
    Item Type:
    19th-century American women writers, Cultural studies, Emily Dickinson
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    Music was a form of communication for Emily Dickinson, both separate from and contained within her poetry. Music provided her with another language to converse with her family, and friends, especially her sister-in-law, Susan, and her niece, Martha. Primarily building upon research conducted by Carolyn Cooley, Judy Jo Small, Richard Sewall and others whose seminal works on have formed the basis for scholarship on the subject of Dickinson and music, this essay will argue that Dickinson’s use of musical imagery and vocabulary was inspired by real-life music and musicians and by her interactions with musically-inclined friends and family. Buttressed by an examination of materials from the Martha Dickinson Bianchi collection at Brown University, a collection that has been little-discussed thus far in Dickinson Studies, this essay provides a counterpoint to extant research into Dickinson’s interest in popular tunes and religious song. The contents of the archive aid in imagining the soundscape of the Dickinsons’ lives, and how that soundscape changed across their lifetimes. Dickinson’s engagement with music was a counterpoint and a compliment to her poetry: she understood that hymns, birdsong, choruses, and piano tunes were an alternative and non-verbal method of communicating emotion and thought through sound and vibration.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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