WMU News

Dickinson presentation will be part of tribute to Carol Haenicke

March 24, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A reading and talk by a leading scholar on the work of Emily Dickinson will be the focal point of a tribute to Western Michigan University's first lady during a Wednesday, April 8, celebration of American women's poetry.

Dr. Daneen Wardrop, WMU associate professor of English, will read from her book, "Emily Dickinson's Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge," in the event set for 4 to 6 p.m. at Waldo Library on the WMU campus. Her reading, which will be in Room 1070, will begin at 4 p.m. A 5 p.m. reception will follow in the Edwin and Mary Meader Rare Book Room, the home of the Carol Ann Haenicke American Women's Poetry Collection.

The collection was established in 1993 in honor of Haenicke, a professional librarian and patron of the arts. It was the first in the nation to focus exclusively on poetry by American women authors. Each semester, a scholarly presentation in honor of the collection is held at the library. This semester's presentation also was designed to pay tribute to Haenicke, the wife of WMU President Diether H. Haenicke, who is retiring from the presidency in July.

During the event, Carol Haenicke will be presented with a signed copy of Wardrop's book, which has received critical praise.

"The presentation is a symbol of the work she has done involving the poetry collection and a 'thank you' to Carol for being a supporter," says Dr. Thomas L. Amos, head of special collections at Waldo Library.

The choice of Wardrop's book on Dickinson as the event's focal point is particularly appropriate, Amos says, since the Haenicke collection holdings include a large number of early printed editions of Dickinson's poems. Since the collection was established in 1993, it has tripled in size to more than 6,500 volumes. The collection has great breadth, he says, and is now developing additional depth around groups of American women poets, becoming a significant research resource.

Wardrop will read from her 1996 book, which was published by the University of Iowa Press. In the work, she analyzes Dickinson as a gothic writer, a designation unused before because the dark and menacing themes of gothic literature are traditionally associated with fiction rather than poetry. Traditional critics of Dickinson's work have concentrated on the sweet and romantic elements of her poetry.

"Dickinson is an interesting litmus test of how views of literature have changed over the years," Wardrop says. "In the past two decades, critics have recognized the wild, stormy and powerful side of her writing. My approach has focused on examining the gothic influences on her work."

Wardrop says the fact that Dickinson has been both popularly and critically acclaimed assured the longevity of her work even though she was not part of the academic or literary power structure of her time. Now critics are looking at her work from an entirely new perspective.

"Our ideas about literature had to change before we could understand her as well as we should," Wardrop says.

Wardrop has been a faculty member at WMU since 1990. She earned a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University, two master's degree from WMU and a doctoral degree from the University of Virginia.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Department of English and Waldo Library. For more information, persons should contact Amos at (616) 387-5221 or Dr. Katherine Joslin, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English, at (616) 387-2584.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland; cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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