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  • 4 Whitman and Dickinson
  • William Pannapacker and Paul Crumbley

The sesquicentennial of the first edition of Leaves of Grass saw considerable growth in the number of scholarly publications on Whitman, particularly historical and cultural studies, research on the history of the book, transnational reception, place and environment, and comparative analyses of the multiple editions and manuscripts of Leaves. Several biographies and critical editions for college students and general readers appeared this year, which also marks the coming-of-age of the Walt Whitman Archive as an indispensable online resource.

Dickinson studies continue to be dominated by historical and cultural scholarship that addresses a wide range of subjects, including poetics, Dickinson's distinctive poetry about thinking, her relationship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her epistolary practices, and her status as a lyric poet. Two important new books provide different interpretations of Dickinson's manuscripts and what they tell us about her relationship to the poetic conventions of her day. These books point to the lively debate surrounding the role of manuscript scholarship and editorial practice that continues to shape studies of Dickinson.

i Walt Whitman

Numerous conferences and exhibitions stimulated a surge of scholarship, in particular, on the 1855 edition of Leaves. Much of this work will appear in print in 2006, although some of the work has already been published. "Leaves of Grass: The 150th Anniversary Conference," [End Page 75] focusing on the 1855 edition, was directed by Susan Belasco, Ed Folsom, and Kenneth M. Price and held at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (31 Mar.-2 Apr.). The proceedings of the conference, Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Essays, ed. Belasco, Folsom, and Price, is expected next year. The Conference on Whitman and Place, directed by Tyler Hoffman and hosted by Rutgers University, Camden (21–23 Apr.), explored Whitman's relationship to particular American cities and regions. Papers from the conference—some of which are detailed in this essay—have been published in an online issue of MStrR. The University of Paris VII held a three-day international conference (4–6 July), "Celebrating Walt Whitman," organized by Éric Athenot of the University of Tours and Mark Niemeyer of the University of Paris IV (Sorbonne). A collection of selected essays from the conference is expected next year. And "Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Symposium," directed by David Haven Blake and Michael Robertson, was held at the College of New Jersey (24–25 Sept.).

Among the major exhibitions was "Revising Himself: Celebrating 150 Years of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass" at the Library of Congress (6 May–3 Dec.), curated by Barbara Bair and Alice Birney, which focused on how Whitman's developing persona was reflected by his writings and images. The New York Public Library hosted "I Am with You: Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, 1855–2005" (9 Sept.– 8 Jan. 2006), a display of books, manuscripts, and images from their collections. "Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman," an exhibit and symposium celebrating Whitman as a bookmaker, was held at the University of Iowa (Nov.–Feb. 2006). The symposium (10–12 Nov.) examined the implications of Whitman's bibliophilia and coincided with the publication of one of the more important books of the year.

a. Books

Folsom's Whitman Making Books, Books Making Whitman: A Catalogue and Commentary (Obermann) includes more than 100 color illustrations of the many editions of Leaves, among other works by Whitman, and it explores the poet's interest in books as material objects, specifically how he treated each edition of Leaves as a separate production with a different purpose in his larger project. Folsom considers the relationship of the physical construction of each book—binding, typeface, layout, and engravings—to the social, political, and biographical context in which it was produced. By comparing different copies of [End Page 76] the first edition of Leaves, Folsom proves that the missing period in the last line of "Song of Myself" was probably the result of type slippage rather than poetic open-endedness. He also discovers, amusingly, that Whitman altered the frontispiece of the first edition in midproduction to enlarge the bulge in his trousers—something that gives new salience to the spermatic quality...


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