Abstract

Abstract:

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, writers' houses were among the first targets of preservation efforts and literary tourism. The appearance of popular literary guidebooks helped define a canon of published American writers, create their celebrity status, and cultivate their fan bases during their lifetimes. The Dickinson family libraries reveal that they were energetic consumers of the novels, poetry, literary biographies, exploration narratives, and other works that induced interest in authors' lives and places associated with them. A conscious participant in contemporary tourism, both in person and through imaginative reading and composition, Emily Dickinson was aware of the risks of invasion by and exposure to well-meaning but intrusive fans. Avoiding publication and celebrity during her lifetime, she silently assented to the possibility of fame after her death. Nationwide interest in patriotic collective memory, physical memorials, and celebration of local celebrities coincided with publication of the first three collections of poems edited by Mabel Loomis Todd in the 1890s. Critical reviews and readers of these publications brought almost immediate recognition to Dickinson's poetry and, in step with contemporary cultural trends, to her home as a significant literary site. When Martha Dickinson Bianchi emerged as editor of her aunt's poetry in 1914, she assiduously cultivated Emily Dickinson's celebrity not only through a decades-long publication campaign but also by transforming the family homes into tourism destinations. The personal entanglements of individual promoters of Emily Dickinson's early celebrity – Lavinia Dickinson, Mabel Loomis Todd, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and others – had specific consequences for the treatment of the Dickinson family homes as literary sites. Those consequences live on in the Emily Dickinson Museum's institutional memory and the stories it tells. Yet, as a literary and historic site with educational, interpretive, and preservation responsibilities to the public trust, the Museum today is guided by multiple external standards in addition to its recognition of the profound emotional ties to Dickinson's work that lie at the heart of fandom.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-858X
Print ISSN
1059-6879
Pages
pp. 71-98
Launched on MUSE
2017-12-14
Open Access
No
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