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Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing
Daneen Wardrop



Becoming Modern/Reading Dress

University of New Hampshire Press
2009 • 268 pp. 90 illus. (24 color) 7 x 10"
Literary Criticism / Fashion


$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-780-4



“Just when one might have thought that biographical, historical, and cultural examinations of Dickinson had been exhausted, Wardrop (Western Michigan Univ.) steps up with a dazzling, delightful study of the impact of textiles and fashion on the US’s most enigmatic poet. . . . Wardrop challenges the notion that Dickinson was not fashion conscious and argues instead that the poet was ‘vitally concerned’ with her appearance. Whenever critics venture into topics that are biographically peripheral rather than central, they risk that their findings may be fluff. That is not the case here. Wardrop offers context by exploring the market economy of the mid-to-late-19th century, the textile manufacturing industry in Amherst during Dickinson’s lifetime, and the depiction of garments in Dickinson’s poetry and letters. Beautifully illustrated and featuring helpful notes and a well-constructed index, this book is by turns fascinating, illuminating, and undeniably original. . . . Highly recommended.”Choice

A history of nineteenth-century fashion through the works of Emily Dickinson

Daneen Wardrop’s Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing begins by identifying and using the dating tools of fashion to place the references to clothing in Dickinson’s letters and poems, and to locate her social standing through examining her fashion choices in the iconic daguerreotype. In addition to detailing the poetics of fashion in Dickinson’s work, the author argues that close examination of Dickinson and fashion cannot be separated from the changing ways that garments were produced during the nineteenth century, embracing issues of domestic labor, the Lowell textile mills, and the Amherst industry of the Hills Hat Factory located almost next door to Dickinson’s Homestead. The recent retrieval of clothing from approximately thirty trunks found in the attic of the Evergreens house, which formerly belonged to Dickinson’s brother and sister-in-law, further enhances this remarkable and original interdisciplinary work.

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Reviews:

“Both studies do a wonderful job of setting literary texts and clothing in relation to each other and then revealing the histories that emerge from that juxtaposition. The political stakes of these historical contexts remain implicit, however, and the Marxist feminism informing these projects could have been more pronounced. Nevertheless, Wardrop and Joslin begin to make crucial interventions into the study of women’s literature and the material culture of clothing: they move toward arguing that U.S. women writers’ depictions of fashion and clothing are shot through with desires for feminist solidarity.”American Literature

“Daneen Wardrop ties fashion and academia together in Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing. The Dickinson that is often studied - the one portrayed within her poetry - shows her intellect and her exceptional handle on language. By analyzing often-dismissed aspects of the famous poet like her approach to clothing, Wardrop presents a more down to earth perspective on Dickinson, one that sees her not just as a talented writer but also in many ways a conventional woman living in an antebellum era. An impressive archive of mid-nineteenth century North Eastern fashion, including the labour practices behind textile production, is thus interwoven with biographical facts about Dickinson.”Worn Fashion Journal

Endorsements:

“This is an impressive work, with sharp, informative, and useful writing. When Wardrop states that her manuscript presents a very different Emily Dickinson, she does not overstate. Rather than critique existing secondary material on Dickinson, however, she creates the “new” persona through providing information very few of us have known. This reading of Emily Dickinson in her time and her contexts—biographical as well as cultural—is truly valuable."—Linda Wagner-Martin, Frank Borden Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing is an innovative, rigorously researched study which investigates the poet's artistic practices in her poems and correspondence through the lens of the domestic and industrial economy of clothing and fashion in the nineteenth century. Drawing on biography, social history, material culture, literary criticism, and aesthetics, Daneen Wardrop makes a significant—and lively—contribution to our understanding of one of our most important American poets.”—Susan Belasco, University of Nebraska, Lincoln



DANEEN WARDROP is a professor of English at Western Michigan University. She is the author of Word, Birth, and Culture in the Poetry of Poe, Whitman, and Dickinson and Emily Dickinson’s Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge. Publication supported by the Coby Foundation, Ltd.






Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:47:54 -0500