字幕列表 影片播放 列印英文字幕 Hello lovely people! So… You probably learned about Emily Dickinson’s poetry during your schooling and even if you didn’t you’ve probably heard of her. She’s thought of as pretty mope-y, antisocial, afraid of being published and obsessed with mysterious men but never brave enough to do anything about it. The 2016 film, A Quiet Passion, leaned heavily in to this idea: portraying her as a lonely woman, wracked with vulnerability and in love with a married reverend. Eugh... No! But today we’re going to be considering whether you were possibly lied to in school and Emily Dickenson was really gay, gay, gay! How gay? Very gay. - Spoiler but I’d just like to point out that in researching this video I learnt the word clitorocentrism so… make of that what you will. If you would like to discover other rainbows that were overlooked in your history classes then I suggest you subscribe to my channel and check out my historical profile playlist, which you’ll find in a card above and in the description below. I too had no idea that she was a rainbow sibling until I read a review of the 2018 film ‘Wild Nights With Emily’ that delved into her lady love. - yes, it came out in 2018 and I’m only just talking about it now. I had no idea it existed. - Or did I but I’ve forgotten? Life with memory loss is so fun(!) So who was Emily Dickinson…? According to those school history books anyway! Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10th 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts on the West Coast of the United States of America. Her family were prominent in the local community but not wealthy as her father was a local lawyer and trustee of Amherst College, of which his father had been a founder. They lived in the family mansion- - Yes, I know I just said they weren’t wealthy and then followed that up with ‘they lived in a mansion’ but wealth is unfortunately relative and what seems a lot when you’re at the bottom isn’t at the top. Capitalism. - Oh no, that’s the whole joke, just... Emily was a well behaved child with a pleasant life and an education that was ambitiously broad for a Victorian girl. Her father was very invested in having well educated children and followed their school progress whilst away from home. In letters Emily describes her father in warm terms but her mother is thought to have been cold and aloof. Emily wrote that she “always ran home to her brother Austin when a child, if anything befell her.” In 1840 Emily and her sister Lavinia Excellent name by the way! started together at Amherst Academy, a former boys’ school that had opened to female students just two years earlier. She spent seven years at the Academy, taking classes in English, classical literature, Latin, botany, history, philosophy and arithmetic. The school’s principal at the time later recalled that Emily was both “very bright” and “an excellent scholar, of exemplary deportment, faithful in all school duties”. From a young age Emily was troubled by thoughts of death and the deaths of those close to her. She was traumatised when her cousin and close friend, Sophia Holland, grew ill and then died from typhus in April 1844 when Emily was just 14 years old. She later wrote: “it seemed to me I should die too if I could not be permitted to watch over her or even look at her face.” Indeed she became so melancholic that her parents sent her away to stay with family friends and recover. She soon returned and made many friends during her time at the Academy… including Susan Huntington Gilbert. Remember Susan, she’ll be very important later After finishing at the Academy she began attending the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (which later became Mount Holyoke College) about ten miles from her home but only lasted ten months before returning home where she “occupied her time with household activities” like baking for the family and getting involved in the local community. And, thankfully for the literary world, she also took up writing. Her early influences were William Wordsworth, Lydia Maria Child, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Shakespeare. - “That’s lovely, Jessica, but where is the gay stuff?” Ok well we’re coming to that! During Emily’s adult life, her strongest and most affectionate relationship was with her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert. yes, that Susan- she married Emily’s brother. And that’s not the only reason she’s important… it's a whole thing. Emily sent more than 300 hundred letters to Susan, more than any other correspondent and it’s worth noting that they actually lived really quite close together! And by ‘close together’ I mean “literally right next door”. - So… I’m just saying… Seems interesting, no? Susan was very supportive of Emily’s poetry, inspiring her and helping her to edit. But here, friends, is where we meet our antagonist! For Emily’s poems were barely published during her lifetime: only 10 of them actually saw the light of day. Posthumously her work and many letters fell into the hands of Mabel Loomis Todd, the wife of a faculty member at Amherst College. She was also the mistress of Emily’s brother Austin! Dun dun dun! And what did Mabel do? Well she edited out any positive mention of Susan… which was almost every mention of her because: - Lesbians: we’re really intense. Mabel promoted the idea that poor Susan had actually been ‘cruel’ and cold to Emily- which was a notion very much rejected by Emily’s surviving nephews and nieces. Let me just read you a section of a letter from Emily to Susan and then you can make up your own mind about how cold she was: “Susie, will you indeed come home next Saturday, and be my own again, and kiss me ... I hope for you so much, and feel so eager for you, feel that I cannot wait, feel that now I must have you—that the expectation once more to see your face again, makes me feel hot and feverish, and my heart beats so fast ... my darling, so near I seem to you, that I disdain this pen, and wait for a warmer language." Tell me that’s not gay! Not that we can say Emily was 100% gay because we don’t know… maybe Emily was bisexual. Because bisexuals exist, people! And bi-erasure is a thing. Anyway she wasn’t the single, sad recluse she’s been portrayed to be! Not that her poetry is prudish- there is little question that Dickinson’s love poetry is erotically charged. The exact nature of that sexually being, as I mentioned, less clear. In numerous poems it is impossible to determine the genders and sexual identities of Dickinson’s speakers and addressees. But can’t we argue that playing the pronoun game is pretty gay in itself…? Don’t get me wrong but whenever someone says ‘my partner’ I get a very excited ‘ooh this is going to be not-cis-hetero: friends! - Not all gays know each other grandma, calm down However, thanks to the wonder that is modern technology, scholars have discovered something quite interesting in the last few decades: That Mabel (oh Mabel!) removed mentions of Susan with a VERY heavy hand. This is depicted in the film Wild Nights With Emily from director and writer Madeleine Olnek and starting Molly Shannon, who is a magnificent human being that I always enjoy seeing on my screens. The film includes the uncensored versions of Dickinson’s odes to her love along with scenes of her being actually- shocker- happy. And likeable. And enjoying life. Most interestingly it also has a voiceover from Mabel, the queer-crusher extraordinare, who tells the audience the opposite of what is happening on screen with absolutely no awareness- which is glorious. At one point she tells the audience that ‘too much is made’ of the relationship between Emily and Susan… as they furiously make out on screen. Also glorious are the number of times Emily and Susan get raunchy in the film! It kicks off with the two girls meeting at school and falling in love as they perform a play together. They do the whole ‘teen sleepover’ thing that… doesn’t involve a lot of sleeping. - the dream of every non-straight teenager. Susan marries Emily’s brother but professes that she’s only doing it so they can live next door to each other their whole lives… - Probably why Austin took up a mistress come to think of it. Unlike earlier portrayals of Emily in fiction [cough] A Quiet Passion, I’m looking at you! here Emily is fun, carefree and queer. And you might be asking “well, were liberties taken with this film? Is it not all just a lesbian fever dream?” No, my friends! This director did her homework! Olnek teamed up with the distinguished scholar, professor of English and founding director of the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities, Martha Nell Smith. Olnek was inspired by a New York Times article from 1998 called “Beethoven’s Hair Tells All!” which detailed how new scientific advances gave researchers the ability to review manuscripts- such as Dickinson’s- and see where or how they were censored and altered. So did Mabel go to town in an act of literal gay erasure…? Oh yeah... Well, the article professes that through infa-red technology Smith was able to prove Mabel (or someone who may not have been Mabel but probably was called Mabel and was Austin’s mistress and also kinda a party pooper) [deep breathe] MABEL crossed out large portions of Emily’s work with pen and ink or sometimes even lifted words off the page with a sharp blade. - And you thought roll out tipex was fancy! But Smith wasn’t the first to bring Emily’s queerness to light. Rebecca Patterson’s book Riddle of Emily Dickinson posits that Susan was her lover but it was published in 1951 and no one in the blacklisting era wanted to hear about the same-sex romance of a writer enshrined as an American Classic. Fools. Smith recalled when she first started reading Emily’s letters to Susan that they really were pretty gay: “I found myself thinking”, she said “[that] if all of this was sent to any man in Dickinson’s life, there wouldn’t be any kind of argument about who was the love of her life.” She published her findings in her book ‘Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson’ although, of course, there was some backlash because- Yeah... - some people don’t like gayness. And that’s honestly baffling to me. Since we’ve moved into a more progressive era, members of her family, historians, and academics have revealed personal letters and poems in an attempt to restore Emily her identity and dignity. But you don’t have to read them all- you could just watch this warm and hilarious biopic with added randiness! The poems were first passed on to Mabel by Austin and Emily’s sister Lavinia due to her literary ties, regardless of her having never met Emily face-to-face. She quickly set about removing Susan before publishing and at the time people took Mabel’s new characterisation at face value. What they didn’t know, but we now do, was that as Austin’s mistress Mabel had a rather vested interest in how Emily and Susan were portrayed. Mabel’s voiceover in the film is a running reminder of the popular narrative she created and whilst it runs in comical contrast to the life we’re actually watching it’s also an acute reminder of the expunction she enacted. Because not only did she take out the gay stuff- she took out the fun stuff too! Through Emily’s letters we learn that she wasn’t a reserved spinster recluse- she was aggressively trying to get her poems published, she was funny and she had a warm and lively romantic life. She was actually amusing, you know, not dishwater dull or a hermit. She loved her garden, getting involved in local life, her niece and nephew, playing the piano, getting hot and heavy with Susan... I find this whole story absolutely fascinating. Why is it more palatable for a woman to be a broken-hearted victim than a funny go-getter with a love affair on the side? - don’t answer that. We all know why. [holds a sign that reads Sexism] Fun fact, director Terence Davis, who created the A Quiet Passion biopic, shows Emily as a driven poet with a quick wit, love for her family and an incredible creative drive that then turns into an anguished loneliness that borders on self-loathing. It also doesn’t touch on Emily’s sexuality questions but instead contends that the friendship she wrote about in letters with a visiting reverend was actually far more than she portrayed it to be. But that he was already married so she just got bitter. huh! Women, right(?) The film makes no mention of the letters between Emily and Susan. Before A Quiet Passion premiered Emily Dickinson scholars were invited to view it and thought it was… a little behind the times Martha Nell Smith, who was so instrumental in creating Wild Nights With Emily (which came out after A Quiet Passion, if you’re getting a little confused about this timeline), described the film as ‘miserable’ and was angry at how it portrayed Emily. She’s even quoted in Vulture as saying she was angry “because I knew that he’s a gay director and the film seemed to me kind of homophobic. But you and I both know that a lot of gay people have internalised homophobia.” Which... wow. Bruising. She even asked Davies point-blank what he thought of Emily’s letters and how he could square his version of Emily with the one in the letters, particularly considering she wrote the majority of them to Susan and used… notably fruity language. To which he replied: “Oh, I didn’t have time to read the letters.” [facepalm] Do your homework, kids. Read between the lines! And yes, whilst no one has asked if A Quiet Passion is entirely correct there are reviews of Wild Nights With Emily that question its accuracy despite the actual texts backing it up! But, you know what, I don’t care. I’m claiming Emily Dickinson as a seminal queer poet and you can’t take that away from me. So nur nur ne nur nur. Buh-bye and I’ll see you in my next video… [kiss] Do your homework, kids!