Announcing the David T. Porter Prize for Meritorious Work in Dickinson Studies
"Poems have a permanence that creatures do not," wrote David Porter in his book, Dickinson: The Modern Idiom. His own work had a permanent impact on Dickinson scholarship, a legacy the Emily Dickinson Museum is pleased to celebrate through the establishment of the David T. Porter Prize for Meritorious Work in Dickinson Studies.
The prize, intended to nurture creative work among new generations of scholars, is open to senior undergraduates enrolled at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, or the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Essays may address topics related to any aspect of Emily Dickinson's life, work, and context, with the winner offered the opportunity to present his/her original work at an Emily Dickinson Museum event and a cash prize of $1,000.
"David's great love was poetry and the particular genius of Dickinson's poems, on a par with his joy in teaching and nurturing the critical maturation of student sensibilities," said his wife Rosalie Porter.
Professor Porter, who passed away in November 2013, spent 33 years in the English department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before his retirement in 1995. He was deeply involved with the Emily Dickinson Museum for decades, beginning when it was known as the Dickinson Homestead. He organized the first Emily Dickinson International Symposium in 1980, which led to the formation of the Emily Dickinson International Society, as well as the 1986 Centennial Celebration of Dickinson where he delivered the keynote speech at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
"David was such a wonderful friend to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and a mentor and leader in the community of scholars who have dramatically expanded critical interpretation of Dickinson's poetry and life," said Emily Dickinson Museum Executive Director Jane Wald. "We're thrilled to offer a prize in his name that invites young scholars into this critical dialogue."
As important as Professor Porter's own research was, his son Tom Porter said, a hallmark of his life as a teacher, scholar, and critic was encouragement of emerging scholars and their innovative critical approaches to Emily Dickinson's work.
"My father loved teaching undergraduates, and this prize is offered as an inspiration to undergraduate seniors with a love for the poet and a curiosity about her life and imagination, to express a new viewpoint that goes beyond the personal to present an insight of universal impact," he said.
The yearly prize will be supported through the David T. Porter Prize Endowment Fund, established by the Porter family and the Phillip Family Foundation (administered by Professor Porter's nephew Michael Phillip and his wife Cheryl Edmonds Phillip).The Emily Dickinson Museum and Amherst College welcome additional contributions to this fund from other donors. For more information, contact development@EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org.
Each year's winner will be chosen by a selection committee composed of two scholars, a representative of David Porter's family, and a member of the Emily Dickinson Museum staff.
"There's still so much unknown about Dickinson," said Emily Dickinson Board of Governors member Polly Longsworth, a friend of the Porter family. "I look forward to lucky young minds engaging with her work and her mysteries while they're right here in or near Amherst, so close to the home she loved, the town she loved, where she's still tangible. Robert Frost said, 'choose a poet for life,' and this prize introduces you to an amazing one, with a global audience."
The deadline for submission of essays for the first award is March 22, 2016. Essays should be submitted electronically to info@EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org or mailed to the Museum at 280 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002, and marked to call attention to the Porter Prize.
ABOUT DAVID PORTER
David T. Porter (1928-2013) set the tone of Dickinson scholarship from the 1960s to the 1980s with his three highly regarded scholarly works, The Art of Emily Dickinson's Early Poetry (1966), Emerson and Literary Change (1978) and Dickinson: The Modern Idiom (1981), all published by Harvard University Press.
For decades, David Porter was closely involved with the Dickinson Homestead (now the Emily Dickinson Museum), and organized the first Emily Dickinson International Symposium in 1980 which led to the establishment of the Emily Dickinson International Society. He organized the 1986 Centennial Celebration of Dickinson and delivered the keynote speech at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
David Porter spent 33 years teaching at UMass Amherst before his retirement in 1995. He was twice awarded Fulbright lectureships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a residency as senior research fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Research Institute in Bellagio, Italy. During his career, Porter taught at the University of Catania in Sicily, and at Keele University and the University of Kent in England.