2010 Programs

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing Maid as Muse
Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing, by Daneen Wardrop Maid as Muse, by Aife Murray

Emily Dickinson, Household Work, and Poetry: 
An Afternoon of Domesticity 

Time: 2 pm
Location: Amherst Woman’s Club, 35 Triangle Street, Amherst
Fee:  none

This program brings together Aife Murray and Daneen Wardrop, authors of two new books that focus on intriguing yet overlooked aspects of Emily Dickinson’s world.  In Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language (2010), Aife Murray reveals how domestic workers in the Dickinson household influenced the poet’s cultural outlook, artistic subject, and even poetic style.  In  Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing (2009), Daneen Wardrop explores Dickinson’s connections—literal and metaphoric—to the fabrics and fashions of her time.  Both scholars portray a poet who, though often depicted as an isolated recluse, was deeply immersed in and influenced by the culture and customs of her time.

During the program Murray and Wardrop will share highlights of their individual research and participate in a moderated discussion about the domestic and artistic spheres in which Dickinson lived.  Several Dickinson poems, including “The Spider as an Artist,” will be featured.  Refreshments and a book-signing for both authors will follow.   

The Amherst Woman's Club, also known as the 1864 home of the Hills family, is located to the east of the Emily Dickinson Museum, on the corner of Main Street and Triangle Street.  Parking is available in the small parking lot behind the Woman's Club or in the circular driveway, both accessible from Triangle Street.  For more information, please contact the Emily Dickinson Museum at 413-542-8429 or 413-542-2034.

Aife Murray
Aife Murray
Daneen Wardrop
Daneen Wardrop

In Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language, Aífe Murray explodes the myth of the isolated genius and presents an intimate story of joined lives between Emily Dickinson and her domestic servants. Part scholarly study, part detective story, part personal journey, Murray’s book uncovers a world previously unknown: an influential world of Irish immigrant servants and an ethnically rich one of Yankee, English-immigrant, Native American, and African American maids and laborers, seamstresses and stablemen.

Daneen Wardrop’s Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing details the poetics of fashion in Dickinson’s work.  Wardrop 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.  Both books are published by the University Press of New England.

Murray was an affiliated scholar with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University and was named the 2007 Scholar in Amherst by the Emily Dickinson International Society.  She conceived and has led several public walking tours of Amherst from the perspective of the Dickinson servants. She also created Art of Service, an artists’ book collaboration with the present-day housecleaners and gardeners of the Dickinson Museum. She lives in San Francisco and has a website, www.maidasmuse.com

Daneen Wardrop is a professor of English at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. 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.