Kiserian Spence

DH Product Blog

In studying the two foremost Dickinson scholars, Thomas H. Johnson and Ralph W. Franklin, I came across a quote that read “[There is] no pattern applicable to a final text of unfinished drafts that can ever be established.” (Lease 3), at first this disturbed me but it later gave me a strong sense of closure. After analyzing the works of Johnson and Franklin, I have understood that there is no definitive way to chronicle Dickinson’s works, but I came across some interesting works that give me a leaning on who I prefer to believe when it comes to chronology.

Thomas H. Johnson was the first to major scholar in giving Dickinson’s works an order. Johnson ordered the works by way that the Dickinson had her drafts. Johnson prioritized “Fair copies, other fair copies, seminal drafts, and worksheet drafts.” (Jefferson) which was efficient in determining in what stage of the writing process was each letter written, the thought was that if the poem was sent, it was finished and that was one of the poems that were written after some of the other drafts or fair copies. Franklin on the other hand focuses on Dickinson’s “…fascicle structure…”(Lease 2) in which he analyzes the progression of her writing. Franklin also looks at the analysis of Dickinson’s handwriting, which was paramount to his decoding of different manuscripts. A large difference between the two is that Franklin had discovered new manuscripts when he published his new chronology, and he treated all of the manuscripts he found equally and did not focus on what was thought of as a draft or not.

With my understanding of the scholars I went on to look at what pieces to analyze and read, I settled on doing the 25 pieces that were numbered: 67, 216, 241, 252, 280, 303, 324, 357, 401, 409, 435, 441, 444, 465, 501, 502, 508, 510, 512, 605, 640, 650, 657, 675, and 709, for each of their respective chronologies. I had initially chosen these because of their separation between the two chornologies (according to Jefferson’s timeline) and then I went to analyze the difference between the ideas presented and their subsequent progression, for example 67 in Jefferson’s timeline is a poem about success, but in Franklin’s timeline it is a poem about a “Bewildered Dove”. This progression helped me understand the placement of a piece that the two scholars seem to disagree on strongly, which is Jefferson’s 1737 but, Franklin’s 267. I have come to the conclusion that Franklin’s placement of the poem is the one that I would personally align with.

This poem is about wifehood, a topic that is not foreign to Dickinson, but this poem comes, according to Johnson’s timeline right after a poem about a sort of rebirth, but if you go with Franklin’s timeline the poem is coming after a poem that is about the fear of forgiveness, and right before a tale of a wife that seems to be unhappy with the present state of her life.

This understanding can be further elaborated, by the fact that the two chronologies, if looking at Johnson’s are very different, but if you look at Franklin’s they are more close together. Let me explain, Johnson’s chronology (see figure 1) deviates much more from Franklin’s, but Franklin’s Chronology (see figure 2) the two are a lot more closely knit. This cohesion of the two timelines is, from what I can surmise, due to an understanding of both methods used to chronicle the works. Franklin was able to look at Johnson’s work and create a timeline that not only includes his works, but the new works that Franklin found.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.


Works Cited

Johnson, Thomas H. “ Thomas Johnson’s Editorial Theories and Practices.” Emily Dickinson Archive, 2003,

Lease, Benjamin. “Ralph W. Franklin: Our Guide to Dickinson’s Legacy.” Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 1, May 1999, pp. 2–3. EBSCOhost,

DH Process Blog

The Process of doing this DH project was really a crash course in a sense because, I had done everything on a whim. I decided to do Emily Dickinson just due to the fact that she was a poet and seemed to have some importance to the literary canon by the way that everyone in my American Writers class talked about her. That is what led to my first pitch for my digital humanities project, being as tracking her development of words through time. This later changed once I was informed that nobody knows when Dickinson wrote any of her pieces for sure, even the most scholarly of individuals on dickinson are making their most educated guesses on the matter. When I met with my professor we decided on a new idea, try your hardest to study the two most known and revered Emily Dickinson scholars (Ralph W. Franklin and Thomas H. Johnson) and try to see who is right by analyzing 100 poems that were close together in chronology by both Johnson and Franklin and pick which was superior.

A struggle that I ran into almost immediately was finding information on Ralph W. Franklin. He is not a mystery man or anything of the sort, but it took me sometime to find any scholarly information on him. That was easily solved due to Chatham University’s online database. I found out that the majority of his chronology has to do with handwriting, which I found interesting, but I also found out that he had discovered new manuscripts by dickinson, making the likelihood of me running into works that he found and Johnson did not, likely. This was not a problem when I actually came across it, but in the moment I had a mini crisis.

In the process of gathering the data for this project, all the due dates sort of snuck up on me and by the time it was the week before, my professor said that I could take the sample size down from 100 to 50 (which really was a blessing). Then I came across something which changed the way that I gathered my poems. Initially I thought that I would pick poems that diverged between chronology, but then I noticed that it would be increasingly hard for me to pick between the two scholars, 25 poems that diverged drastically from one another’s chronology. This was an easy fix that I think improved the quality of my project. I decided to pick 25 from Johnson that were at least 50 poems apart from Franklin and record Johnson’s number and then Franklin’s number. Then I decided to instead of look for new poems from Franklin, take the same number that Johnson ranked the poems that I chose and then chose those same number poems but for Franklin and record what Johnson had them as. One of which, Franklin’s 502nd poem is not ranked by Johnson, but I have not found that to be a problem.

I put the numbers of each of the poems that I picked into a word document at first, that did not help in graphing, or visualizing the data presented, so I tried exporting the text to some tools like Gephi and Heuristic, that did not help in the slightest. After much deliberation I tried to enter the same data, into an excel spreadsheet and then transporting it into the tools mentioned before, still nothing. This was pretty frustrating, but then I ultimately tried something else, instead of having the data like this: 605 [470], I entered them into two separate columns like this: 605 470 and then I exported the spreadsheet to Gephi, and once again was greeted with nothing. I had contemplated on just doing a blog post, but then I knew that I would be missing the entire point of the project. While gathering data, I was looking into what I would be able to use to represent my data in an effective and meaningful manner. After trying Gephi and Heuristic and none of them working the way I envisioned, I decided to can those and just make a few graphs on Excel. The problem with Excel is trying to see how those two individual graphs align with each other is really hard. Initially I wanted the two graphs to align and then the viewer could see the difference between the two scholars, but I ended up just doing two separate graphs.