EP59circleAbdication: Emily Dickinson’s Failures of Self
Kristen Case

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Following Dickinson into the realm of self-abdication is a rethinking of the function and possibilities of critical writing. It is to venture a (local and shallow) re-description of critical text as a text that follows, that exists (only) in relation to another. In this following, the relation is not an agonistic one. This writing would not seek to fill the holes of the text to which it listens, but would be above all a practice of reception, of hollowness, of having holes. What it produces is a reading which is always at risk of losing its article, of slipping back into mere reading:  non-productive, melancholic, dreamlike, passive, aligned with sleep; attached to a receptivity that resists articulation. 

“Writing these words pulls me letter by letter toward silence, toward the white space that will meet the end of this sentence, toward the final failure. Dickinson held off periods like the little deaths they are.
Little cousins,
Called back.

KRISTEN CASE is the author of Little Arias, a book of poems, and the critical study American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe. A poetry chapbook, Temple was published by MIEL in 2014. She is co-editor of Thoreau at Two-Hundred: Essays and Reassessments, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. She has also written (or has work forthcoming) about Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and William James. Her current work-in-progress is titled Toward Writing: Critical Practice and the Abandonment of Critique. She teaches American literature at the University of Maine at Farmington.


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Essay Press is pleased to announce the two winners of the 2016 Essay Press Open Book Contest judged by Carla Harryman: Litany for the Long Moment by Mary-Kim Arnold and Of Sphere by Karla Kelsey, which will be published in Fall 2017.