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Crumbley, Paul and Eleanor Heginbotham: "'The Prism never held the Hues': Fascicle Study at the Present Moment"

“The Prism never held the Hues”: Fascicle Study at the Present Moment

Paul Crumbley, Utah State University
Eleanor Heginbotham, Concordia University St. Paul emerita

When Dickinson writes that “The Prism never held the Hues” (Fr1664), she imagines that her poetry performs as a prism that reveals an array of colors, among which each reader selects according to the light of his or her own individual intelligence.. Over ten years of collaboration with eight of the most distinguished manuscript scholars now active in Dickinson studies, we discovered that no overarching consensus as to the nature or purpose of this substantial body of work is likely to emerge any time soon. Instead, the contributors to this volume consistently question the critical impulse to establish a unifying narrative that would meaningfully harness all forty fascicles. The clear preference is to replace the search for a singular organizing principle with the articulation of multiple modes of coherence, all of which present a Dickinson powerfully engaged with her historical and cultural moment. Whether contributors concentrate on individual fascicles or place fascicle poems in conversation with poems and letters outside the fascicle frame, the prevailing tendency is to read the poems as repositories for reflections on significant themes or stages within an extended process of aesthetic experimentation. Overall, they indicate that Dickinson did not perceive new formats as displacing the ones that preceded them.