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2008: ALSC

Call for Seminar Papers
Fourteenth Annual Conference of The Association of Literary Scholars & Critics (ALSC)
October 25, 2008
Sheraton Society Hill Hotel


Seminar: Interpreting the Shifting Texts of Dickinson and/or Whitman Convener: Don Share (Poetry Magazine)

Otherwise so different, Dickinson and Whitman have in common the fact that their textual histories are complicated. Editorial controversies create occasions for interpretation.

In Dickinson’s case, there are the variant versions, the unfinished poems, the poems embedded in letters and so altered to suit the recipient, versions blurring the distinction between verse and prose, the idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation, and the fact that she did not oversee her publication.

In Whitman there is the shifting ground of six editions of Leaves of Grass, all supervised by the author, and involving revisions, omissions, innovations of format (such as tables of contents and the grouping of poems into sections), and the adding and dropping of titles.

What interpretive insights can be gleaned from these textual complications, in the case of either poet or (where possible) both? Does it mean anything about American poetry that the texts of its two foundational poets are so unstable? What happens in the classroom when you make your students aware of the textual controversies (or do you have reasons for concealing them)? Do the conventions of nineteenth century print culture cast light on interpretation?

Please send half-page abstracts or short papers (2-4 pages) as Word attachments to

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Friday, September 12, 2008.

All perspectives welcome; we hope to include participants who have lots of experience in editing these poets as well as participants who have none.