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  • Hello lovely people!

  • SoYou probably learned about Emily Dickinson’s poetry during your schooling and even if you

  • didn’t youve 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 were 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 somake 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 youll 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 filmWild

  • Nights With Emilythat 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 withthey lived

  • in a mansionbut wealth is unfortunately relative and what seems a lot when youre

  • 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 shealways 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 bothvery brightandan 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

  • Academyincluding Susan Huntington Gilbert.

  • Remember Susan, shell 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 sheoccupied her time with household activitieslike 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 were 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 importantit'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 byclose

  • together’ I meanliterally right next door”.

  • - So… I’m just sayingSeems 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 Susanwhich was

  • almost every mention of her because:

  • - Lesbians: were really intense.

  • Mabel promoted the idea that poor Susan had actually beencrueland 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 youthat 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 knowmaybe 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 saysmy partner’ I get a very excitedooh 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 thattoo much is madeof the relationship between

  • Emily and Susanas 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 wholeteen sleepoverthing thatdoesn’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 askingwell, 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 calledBeethoven’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 bookRowing in Eden: Rereading Emily

  • Dickinsonalthough, of course, there was some backlash because-

  • Yeah...

  • - some people don’t like gayness. And that’s honestly baffling to me.

  • Since weve 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 were 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 youre getting a little confused about this timeline),

  • described the film asmiserableand was angry at how it portrayed Emily. She’s

  • even quoted in Vulture as saying she was angrybecause 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 usednotably 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!

Hello lovely people!

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艾米麗-狄金森是同志嗎?[CC] (Was Emily Dickinson Gay? [CC])

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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