". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Emily Dickinson: A Recovered Daguerreotype of the Poet in 1859

On the eve of the Civil War.  It's only the second photographic image we have of her, the first from 1847, of the adolescent Emily Dickinson.

Comparing the 1859 picture with the 1847 photograph known to be of Dickinson, Professor Susan Pepin of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Centre measured eyelid and facial features of both women. "The two women have the same eye opening size with the right eye opening being slightly larger than the left. The left lower lid in both women sits lower than the right lower lid," she wrote in a report. "Other similar facial features are evident between the women in the daguerreotypes. The right earlobe is higher on both women. The inferonasal corneal light reflex suggests corneal curvature similarity, allowing us to speculate about similar astigmatism in the two women. Both women have a central hair cowlick. Finally, both women have a more prominent left nasolabial fold."
Pepin concluded that "after a thorough examination of both of these women's facial features as viewed from the 1847 and 1859 daguerreotypes, I believe strongly that these are the same people".
Amherst has also searched the Emily Dickinson Museum's textile collection and has found at least one fabric sample in a blue check it believes is a candidate for the dress the woman supposed to be Dickinson is wearing in the image. It is planning further work by a textile expert to determine whether the two are the same. The woman on the right, thought to be Kate Turner, is wearing widow's black, "as would have been appropriate following the May, 1857 death of her young husband, Campbell Ladd Turner", it said.
Amherst does admit that the dress worn in the photograph by "Dickinson" does seem to be out-of-date for the late 1850s, but it believes that "may be of less significance when one considers the 23-year-old Dickinson's comment to friend Abiah Root in 1854, 'I'm so old fashioned, Darling, that all your friends would stare'".

It is absurdly splendid, staring at this photo and marveling, "Those are the lips of Emily Dickinson!"

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