Wild Nights with Harvard University Press
September 15, 2019 11:16 AM   Subscribe

"Please, please, I’ll tell you anything I can, but I can’t afford to be on the outs with Harvard!" There's been renewed focus on Emily Dickinson, with fictionalized treatments of her life in last year's Wild Nights with Emily and in the upcoming Dickinson series. But the real-life drama over control of Dickinson's writings -- including "theft, adulterous affairs, a land deal gone wrong, a feud between families, two elite colleges, and some of the most famous poems in American literature" -- could go toe to toe with either of them.
posted by Cash4Lead (12 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fame is a fickle food (1702)

By Emily Dickinson

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set
Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the
Farmer’s corn
Men eat of it and die
posted by chavenet at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


"...If Circassian - He is careless -
If He put away
Chrysalis of Blonde - or Umber -
Equal Butterfly -

They emerge from His Obscuring -
What Death - knows so well -
Our minuter intuitions -
Deem unplausible"

-Emily Dickinson. 'Denomination'
posted by clavdivs at 11:49 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ironically, then, the institution holding manuscripts that Mabel Loomis Todd illicitly retained has the more open policy today, and the school that bought manuscripts from the poet’s legitimate heir now takes a more restrictive approach.

I'm unclear as to what part of this situation can be considered ironic.
posted by zamboni at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2019


It's like rain on your wedding day.
posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see more Emily quotes on this thread.
posted by ovvl at 5:03 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how it is even possible for anything Dickenson wrote to be eligible for copyright protection anymore.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 5:25 PM on September 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


I tried to follow that copyright train
'Til I felt a funeral in my brain
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how it is even possible for anything Dickenson wrote to be eligible for copyright protection anymore.
Me neither. And I wish the article had said more about that issue, besides the brief mention that Amherst regards all its Dickinson manuscripts as belonging to the public domain. As it is, I can only conjecture that anyone sufficiently motivated to press the issue with Harvard UP is probably a researcher of Dickinson's works. That kind of person probably has real grounds to fear the repercussions of developing a bad reputation, not just with Harvard, but probably with other prominent university presses. Of course, such a person probably also lacks the wherewithal to challenge Harvard University Press in court. Harvard is definitely not on the side of enlightenment here.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 9:08 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Harvard's position is that the majority of DIckinson's works were published posthumously:
The copyright status of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is quite complex, as most of her poetry was published posthumously, in batches, and some poems have gone through several revisions. A handful of bowdlerized versions of her poems were published during her lifetime (and are thus public domain), but the bulk of her poetry, restored to its original presentation as seen in her manuscripts, wasn’t published until the 1920s and later.
In the US, between 1924 and 1977, the copyright term starts at publication, not the death of the author. You get 95 years from the publication date, assuming copyright was appropriately renewed if required.

2019-1924=95. Whatever claim Harvard has on DIckinson's work, it's beginning to slip away.
posted by zamboni at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


the copyright term starts at publication, not the death of the author.

This should have been the end of the copyright term is calculated based on the date of publication, not the death of the author.
posted by zamboni at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2019


Because publishers fear lawsuits, they capitulate to permissions fees even when citing a poem qualifies as fair use. One ought not expect a single institution to unilaterally change the norms of intellectual property, but in the case of a poet as famous as Dickinson, one might wish that Harvard would relax its grip. As it stands, the wealthiest university in the world claims the rights to a body of poems that were unpublished when their author died, over 130 years ago, and many of whose source manuscripts this institution has never possessed.

To misquote Emily Dickinson, frig it.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:25 PM on September 16, 2019


the end of the copyright term is calculated based on the date of publication, not the death of the author

Well, that's good because the death of the author dates from 1967.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:53 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


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