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Elizabeth Bishop in the Twenty-First Century

Reading the New Editions

Edited by Angus Cleghorn, Bethany Hicok, and Thomas Travisano

Publication Year: 2012

In recent years, a series of major collections of posthumous writings by Elizabeth Bishop--one of the most widely read and discussed poets of the twentieth century--have been published, profoundly affecting how we look at her life and work. The hundreds of letters, poems, and other writings in these volumes have expanded Bishop‘s published work by well over a thousand pages and placed before the public a "new" Bishop whose complexity was previously familiar to only a small circle of scholars and devoted readers. This collection of essays by many of the leading figures in Bishop studies provides a deep and multifaceted account of the impact of these new editions and how they both enlarge and complicate our understanding of Bishop as a cultural icon.

Contributors: Charles Berger, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville * Jacqueline Vaught Brogan, University of Notre Dame * Angus Cleghorn, Seneca College * Jonathan Ellis, University of Sheffield * Richard Flynn, Georgia Southern University * Lorrie Goldensohn * Jeffrey Gray, Seton Hall University * Bethany Hicok, Westminster College * George Lensing, University of North Carolina * Carmen L. Oliveira * Barbara Page, Vassar College * Christina Pugh, University of Illinois at Chicago * Francesco Rognoni, Catholic University in Milan * Peggy Samuels, Drew University * Lloyd Schwartz, University of Massachusetts, Boston * Thomas Travisano, Hartwick College * Heather Treseler, Worcester State University * Gillian White, University of Michigan

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-8

Elizabeth Bishop has emerged as one of the most important and widely discussed American poets of the twentieth century. However, Bishop published comparatively little in her lifetime, and our image of her as a writer and as a person has undergone a sea change over the past several years due to the publication of three...

Part I: Textual Politics: Looking into the New Elizabeth Bishop

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pp. 9-10

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Alice in Wonderland: The Authoring and Editing of Elizabeth Bishop’s Uncollected Poems

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pp. 11-25

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, edited by Alice Quinn, was marketed as a new book of poems by Elizabeth Bishop, or at least as a new book of “Uncollected Poems, Draft s, and Fragments.” The book’s subtitle was the first thing to attract Helen Vendler’s scorn in her infamous New Republic review of the book: “This...

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Postcards and Sunsets: Bishop’s Revisions and the Problem of Excess

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pp. 26-40

T. S. Eliot thought that every important new work alters the existing canon. As numerous examples attest, the rule holds true also of individual author canons, where the belated addition of a lost novel, essay, or poem compels us to read the entire oeuvre in new and unexpected ways. Elizabeth Bishop’s readers have long...

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Bishop’s Buried Elegies

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pp. 41-53

The arrival of Alice Quinn’s edition of uncollected Bishop texts makes available to a public readership these tantalizing uncollected pieces—hard to describe as a group—which only Bishop scholars have been familiar with up to now. It will be fascinating to follow the long- term influence of this volume on Bishop criticism...

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Elizabeth Bishop’s “Finished” Unpublished Poems

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pp. 54-66

One of the major controversies over Elizabeth Bishop’s posthumous publications has been the ethical issue about bringing into print poems she either regarded as unfinished or chose not to publish. Some critics have rushed in to “save” Bishop’s reputation for perfection, complaining that these poems that she left unpublished...

Part II: Crossing Continents: Self, Politics, Place

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pp. 67-68

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Bishop’s “Wiring Fused”: “Bone Key” and “Pleasure Seas”

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pp. 69-87

Elizabeth Bishop’s Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box and the Library of America edition of Bishop’s poetry and prose provide readers with additional context enabling a richer understanding of her poetic project. Alice Quinn’s compelling tour of previously unpublished archival material and her strong interpretive directions in the...

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Dreaming in Color: Bishop’s Notebook Letter-Poems

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pp. 88-103

In an interview with Elizabeth Spires about a year before her death, Elizabeth Bishop spoke with unprecedented openness about her experience of psychoanalysis, letter writing, and the composition of poems. When Spires asked Bishop if she ever had a poem come to her as donnée, Bishop claimed that she had written her...

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Elizabeth Bishop’s Drafts: “That Sense of Constant Readjustment"

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pp. 104-116

In a much- noticed review of Alice Quinn’s Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, Helen Vendler steadied the troops against any eager embrace of these uncollected and previously unpublished poems and fragments. Back into their archival lairs the whole lot should go: against “the real poems,” these are only “their maimed and stunted...

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Foreign-Domestic: Elizabeth Bishop at Home/Not at Home in Brazil

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pp. 117-132

The orienting metaphor for Elizabeth Bishop’s life and work is North and South, the poles of her travels and dialectical sources of her art. From earliest childhood to the last years of her life, with remarkable persistence, she carried core material wherever she traveled—a carapace of memory and sensibility to substitute, or...

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Bishop’s Brazilian Politics

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pp. 133-150

Among the major contributions of the new Library of America edition of Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems, Prose, and Letters are not only more poems, a handful of which are finished or nearly so, but a great deal of Bishop’s exceptional prose, most of which was published only in magazines and literary journals throughout her...

Part III: New Correspondences: The Poet with Her Peers

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pp. 151-152

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“Composing Motions”: Elizabeth Bishop and Alexander Calder

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pp. 153-169

Bishop’s lifelong interest in visual art and her off hand remarks that she would rather have been a painter suggest the depth of her attraction to poetry’s sister discipline (Brown, “Interview” 24; A. Johnson 100).1 Yet, the scarcity of extended descriptions about the visual arts in her letters and notebooks, combined with the...

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“A World of Books Gone Flat”: Elizabeth Bishop’s Visits to St. Elizabeths

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pp. 170-185

“I’ve seen Pound some more and won his heart by telling him that I was a collateral descendent of Aaron Burr, whose only mistake was [in Pound’s words] not having shot Hamilton twenty years earlier,” Robert Lowell writes Elizabeth Bishop on November 20, 1947. And he goes on: “He remembers your work before the war as...

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Elizabeth Bishop and Flannery O’Connor: Minding and Mending a Fallen World

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pp. 186-203

The pairing of Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979) and Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) may seem a surprising and somewhat unexpected association: one a poet and the other a novelist and short- story writer; one a New England / Canadian / Brazilian sojourner and the other a rooted Georgia southerner; one a religious skeptic and...

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Words in Air: Bishop, Lowell, and the Aesthetics of Autobiographical Poetry

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pp. 204-220

When Elizabeth Bishop left the United States in 1951 and embarked on her journey in the hope of satisfying her “immodest demands for a different world, / and a better life, and complete comprehension / of both at last, and immediately” (PPL 71), she had been unhappy and ill at ease in conducting the business aspect of poetry...

Part IV: The New Elizabeth Bishop and Her Art

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pp. 221-222

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Geography IV, or The Death of the Author Revisited: An Essay in Speculative Bibliography

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pp. 223-238

Imagine, if you will . . . Elizabeth Bishop, at the age of sixty- eight, visits a brilliant Boston cardiologist and receives timely medical treatment and advice, thereby avoiding what might have been her sudden death from a cerebral aneurysm in October 1979, at the height of her poetic powers. She is induced by this cardiologist...

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“An Almost Illegible Scrawl”: Elizabeth Bishop and Textual (Re)Formations

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pp. 239-254

The wealth of the recent work on and by Bishop—from Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, to the previously unavailable material and reorderings in the Library of America edition of her work, to the remarkable lett ers between Bishop and Lowell in Words in Air—solidifies what has been, over the past twenty years, a growing...

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Words in Air and “Space” in Art: Bishop’s Midcentury Critique of the United States

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pp. 255-273

In a 1957 letter of apology written to Elizabeth Bishop for the hypomanic episode he’d recently suffered while the two visited together in Maine, Robert Lowell dramatizes his sense of regret and defeat on the drive home to Boston...

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“A Lovely Finish I Have Seen”: Voice and Variorum in Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box

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pp. 274-288

Who can predict the half- life of a dead poet’s unfinished works? And if they are disseminated for public consumption, who—or what aesthetic—may ultimately co- opt them? These questions have become more salient aft er the 2006 publication of Alice Quinn’s Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box. As is well known, Quinn’s variorum...


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pp. 289-298


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pp. 299-302


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pp. 303-304


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pp. 305-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932965
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932613

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bishop, Elizabeth, -- 1911-1979 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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