Second Project Narrative (Alex’s Team)

For our second project we examined multiple editions of Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweetest.” In the project we examined eight different editions of the poem which we ‘marked-up’ for TEI and then compared to each other using software called Juxta. Based on these comparisons we created a stematic diagram showing the progression of the poem through its various editions. In creating our stematic diagram we tried to decide what were the major editorial decisions surrounding the poem. We came to the conclusion that the two major editorial decisions were the use of dashes vs. commas and stanzas vs. no stanzas. While the text itself remains essentially the same throughout all of the versions, these two editorial decisions have a significant impact on how each version of the poem is read and interpreted. Our task in assessing all of these things was to discover the progression from the manuscript to the final published version (the Norton version) and to discern when certain editorial decisions were made.

Looking first at the manuscript (labeled ‘0’ in our stematic diagram and the various critical apparti), Dickinson both used dashes and split the poem into stanzas. As this is the first available work we set it at the top of our stematic diagram and used it as a basis of comparison for the other later editions of the poem. Based on the characteristics of the manuscript we split the seven remaining versions of the poem into four categories, based on the editorial decisions of each version of the poem.

The first version that we looked at was the ‘1967a’ edition (labeled ‘1’). This version also featured both stanzas and dashes, and was nearly identical to the manuscript, differing in only two minor places, both of them minor punctuation differences. In examining the remaining versions of the poem, we saw that the ‘Norton’ edition (labeled ‘1a’) also had the same editorial decisions made in the ‘1967a’ version. From this we concluded that the ‘Norton’ (since it was published after the ‘1967a’ version) was created using the same editorial decisions seen in the ‘1967a’ version.

The second sub-category that we found were three editions which contained stanza’s but no dashes. The first of these editions published was the 1892 edition (labeled ‘2’). This edition contained stanzas, like the manuscript, but no dashes. Hence it clearly represents a different branch of the poem. Along with the 1892 edition, both the 1901 edition (labeled ‘2a’) and the 1930 edition (labeled ‘2b’) also featured stanzas, but no dashes. Based on these conclusions we determined that the decisions made in the 1901 and 1930 editions were based on the 1892 edition of the poem. It is important to note that the 1930 edition may have been based on either the 1892 or 1901 editions, since both of the preceding editions feature the same major editorial decisions. For our stematic diagram, we placed the 1930 edition below the 1901 edition based on the time each was published.

The third sub-category we found was the 1878 edition (labeled ‘3’) which featured no stanzas and no dashes. These editorial decisions are different from those found in the manuscript so we concluded that the 1878 edition represents a third sub-category of the poem.

The remaining edition of the poem the 1967b edition (labeled ‘4’), contains different editorial decisions than those seen in any of the other editions. The 1967b edition is not split into stanzas, but does contain dashes. Given that this is the only edition of the poem featuring this set of editorial decisions we concluded that the 1967b edition represents a fourth sub-category of the poem.

In completing this project, we were able to observe one Emily Dickinson poem undergo many editorial changes, which effected the overall interpretation of the poem. Using juxta to compare versions spanning from the manuscript to the published Norton “Success is counted sweetest,” we saw the way a poem, presented in different forms, is still recognised as the “same” poem. This required us to determine what aspects of a poem make it unique, and what changes can be allowed while still maintaining its essence or meaning. In the end we decided that, because the text remained essentially the same, the exchange of dashes for commas and the choice of breaking the poem into stanzas or not changed the way the poems could be read, but did not create a new poem altogether.


About elotroalex

Alex Gil is Digital Scholarship Coordinator at Columbia University for the Humanities and History division. His research revolves around otr-American literatures and culture, digital humanities and critical theory. His dissertation traced the miraculous trajectory of Aimé Césaire's "Et les chiens se taisaient" in the fields of legology.
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2 Responses to Second Project Narrative (Alex’s Team)

  1. Pingback: Wrapping Up | Project Tango

  2. Lakeisha says:

    True story, there is this really old homeless man that walks the streets of Reno who looks like R. Lee Ermey with Brian Gr1e8r&#z2a7;s hair. He’s my favorite homeless person of all time.

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