- In Memoriam: Margaret Dickie
The community of Dickinson scholars lost a friend and mentor this year in Margaret Dickie, who died on January 11 in Athens, Georgia, after a long illness. At the time of her death, Margaret Dickie was the Helen S. Lanier Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Georgia, a position she had held since 1987. Before joining the English department at the University of Georgia, Margaret was Professor of English and Head of the English department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Margaret’s name will be familiar to many readers of the Journal in a double capacity, as a contributor and as a much-cited scholar, the author of Lyric Contingencies: Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens as well as important essays and reviews in Dickinson studies. Margaret was also the author and editor of several other books on American poetry and American literary studies more generally. As a member of the Board of the Emily Dickinson International Society, Margaret was the chief organizer of the Society’s 1995 conference, “Emily Dickinson Abroad,” in Innsbruck, Austria. Dickinson scholars who met Margaret Dickie for the first time at that conference, like those of us who had earlier come to know her in other contexts, were particularly struck by the warmth and generosity she showed to younger scholars — a side of Margaret I first encountered in 1986 when she was the gracious host of my first-ever job talk at the University of Illinois. Along with Margaret’s present graduate students, those of us in debt to her professional enthusiasm and kindness will miss her sorely.
Contrasting Emily Dickinson’s hunger for reciprocal dialogue with Montaigne’s metaphor of speech as a tennis match, Margaret once wrote that Dickinson “did not engage in a game of hitting and returning strikes but rather in an experience of emotional elevation” (Lyric Contingencies). Margaret herself enjoyed a friendly game of tennis, especially after moving to sunny Georgia, but she was no stranger to the emotional elevation that serious scholarship can generate in its most open and generous forms of exchange. We are all the poorer for her loss, I would almost say, if not for Emily Dickinson’s late comment to Susan Huntington Dickinson: “Expanse cannot be lost -.”