Emily Dickinson Goes to the Movies

Emily Dickinson Goes to the Movies on The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast

Episode 35d with Heather Rose Jones

Was famous American poet Emily Dickinson a lesbian? The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast looks at her life through the lens of the movie camera, and especially the current film Wild Nights with Emily.

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In this episode we talk about:

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Trystan L. Bass and Frock Flicks Online


please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect

[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with a lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment lilian fodder man’s book surpassing the love of men was one of two books I encountered in the 1980s that convinced me that there were treasures to be found in the history of women’s same-sex love the other one of course was Emma Donahue’s passions between women in the introduction to her extensive study of romantic friendship fodder Minh notes that began as a study of Emily Dickinson’s love poems and letters to sue Gilbert the woman who became her sister-in-law fodder Minh may be exaggerating her reaction for the sake of a good academic sleuthing story when she says the following although Dickenson had written the most passionate and central pronouncement of love de su Gilbert in the 1850s there was never any suggestion that she felt the need to be covert about her emotions if I had really uncovered a lesbian relationship why could I not find any evidence of the guilt and anxiety the need to keep secrets from family and friends that I thought were inevitably associated with homosexuality before the days of gain liberation furthermore she questions wide Dickinson’s editors and publishers including individuals associated with her immediate family took such pains to deny or excuse the romantic and erotic content of her poetry and letters given that Dickenson herself had not seen any reason to conceal them now I have issues with some of Ottomans assumptions and premises not only in this starting position as she describes it but interpret sections of the emotional and erotic lives of nineteenth-century women but the historic analysis inspired by her questions about Emily Dickinson remains of immense value and her conclusions illustrate a pattern that is repeated several times across Western history she notes that in the 19th century it was not unusual for a woman to seek at her romantic friendship the center of her life quite apart from the demands of marriage and family if not in lieu of them when women’s role in society began to change however when what women did needed to be taken more seriously because they were achieving some of the powers that would make them adult persons society’s view of romantic friendship changed love between women relationships which were emotionally in no way different from the romantic friendships of earlier eras became evil or morbid it was not simply that men now saw the female sexual more realistically many of the relationships they condemned had little to do with sexual expression it was rather that love between women coupled with their emerging freedom might conceivably bring about the overthrow of heterosexuality end quote applied to Emily Dickinson Lillian fodder men’s conclusion was that the content of Emily’s writings was consistent with the social norms for women’s emotional relationships with other women during her lifetime that it was not evidence of what we would understand as a lesbian relationship and that the later literally reisher of the place of Susan Gilbert in her life was due to the societal shift in how women’s romantic friendships were treated and therefore in how those who were handling her legacy wanted to present her life once the possibility of women experiencing sexual desire for each other was recognized due to the writings of the sexologist said the rising field of psychiatry the serpent had entered the garden and women’s romantic relationships throughout time were retrospectively suspected of expressing deviant sexuality not until the rise of gay liberation thus as fodder ‘men were we free to embrace our own same-sex erotic desire without guilt and shame but as for the reality of Dickinson’s life fodder minh says quote these romantic friendships were love relationships in every sense except perhaps the genital since women in centuries other than ours often internalize the view of females as having little sexual passion thus they might kiss fondle each other sleep together but are expressions of overwhelming love and promises of eternal faithfulness and yet see their passions as nothing more than effusions of the spirit end quote well if you want to know my issues with that interpretation read the summary and analysis of surpassing love of men in the lesbian historic motif project blog but this show isn’t about me or about Lillian Foreman’s book but about Emily Dickinson and about the recent movie wild nights with Emily that very decidedly takes a position on Dickinson sexuality that does not involve quote having little sexual passion unquote the movie takes his title from the following poem she wrote around 1861 wild nights wild nights were I with the wild night should be our luxury futile the winds to a heart import done with the compass done with the chart rowing in Eden the sea might I but more tonight in the the homoerotic content of Emily Dickinson’s work and by extension her life has been a subject of debate from the start with shifting sides depending on whether one viewed the topic as casting aspersions on that life or exploring its richness and on whether one were a Dickinson fan or detractor Emily and Susan met in their late teens in Amherst Massachusetts where the Dickinson’s were prominent among the social and intellectual elite of the town both women had literary pursuits throughout their lives and at the very least were each other’s mentors and supporters in that field they lived in an atmosphere where devoted romantic relationships between women were normalized and valorized Emily spent a year at Mount Holyoke’s Women’s College famous for romantic pairings among both students and faculty the women’s colleges of New England in the mid to late nineteenth century were so famous for relationships of this sort that the term well ously marriage competed with boston marriage to identify committed female couples the correspondence that survives between Emily and Susan is full of not only romantic but sensual longing for each other’s presence in 1852 when Susan was away teaching in Baltimore Emily wrote Susie will you indeed come home next Saturday and be my own again and kiss me I hope for you so much and feel so eager for you feel that I cannot wait feel that now I must have you that the expectation once more to see your face again makes me feel hot and feverish and my heart beats so fast my darling so near I seem to you that I’d disdain this pen and wait for a warmer language posterity has argued from opposite sides that this was purely conventional sentimental language that shouldn’t be taken literally and that such language is unambiguous evidence of physical erotic desire and most likely a physical relationship between them two women the year after that letter was written became engaged Emily’s brother Austin once again this simple fact has been interpreted from opposite poles the hetero normal lists argued that any marriage to a man negates all the potential evidence of same-sex desire similar circumstances for other women it has been argued that any affection expressed from one woman to another was actually a coded secret message intended to be passed on to a related man from the opposite pole it is pointed out that women had a limited set of strategies for ensuring proximity and access to each other if they were not of a social class and living in an era when it was possible to live independent economic lives then creating a bond via a male relative produced some degree of stability I’m reminded of how actress Charlotte Cushman arranged for her lover Emma Crowe to marry Cushman’s nephew to create a similar recognised bond Susan at Austin’s marriage does not appear to have been particularly successful despite three children Austin entered a long-term relationship with Mabel Loomis Todd the wife of one of his employees after Emily’s death there was something of a feud between Todd and the Dickinson’s over who would manage the publication of Emily’s poetry and curate her legacy Todd published an edited selection of poems that were within her control in 1880 Martha Dickinson Bianchi Suzan and Austin’s daughter published other editions based on the material within her control not until 1955 was a comprehensive collection published restored to Emily’s distinctive formatting and ordered in roughly chronological sequence this is the background of the story told in wild nights with Emily the mythologizing of Emily Dickinson as an eccentric recluse scribbling way at palms unknown to the rest of the world until after her death is challenged as being a deliberate fictional creation of Mabel Todd the film tackles its topic with wit creativity and satire I invited my friend Tristan Elle bass from the historic movie website fraught flicks to join me to give our impressions of the film along with a few remarks about others cinematic interpretations of Emily Dickinson’s life the lesbian talk-show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk-show I am here with Tristan L bass of rock flicks this is our second time recording a movie review together and you know they say once is coincidence twice as tradition and three times is an ancient honorable tradition whose origins are lost in the mists of antiquity so we’re probably going to get there because we were just chatting about how we desperately need for me to watch Gentleman Jack so we could talk about it definitely we’re well on our way so and I’ve been recapping Gentleman Jack on frog flexkom so yeah yeah you got it yeah they watch that one too so we can talk about in full but today today we are here to talk about wild nights with Emily the most recent I almost don’t want to call it a biopic the most recent movie about Emily Dickinson and I have to say I loved this film I mean I just I who did I hollered i I didn’t quite pee my pants laughing but it was fabulous and I will talk about some of the things I liked about it in detail but so how about you I I definitely I cackles loudly in the theater I can tell you what exact point that made me laugh the most that was it the one about women not getting involved in politics or something like that no it was it was the musical version of because I could not oh yes yes which is my favorite Emily Dickinson poem actually that’s tied with after great pain a formal feeling comes but to see that to put to music was just I was dying it was because oh my god so we put that in context yeah 4/4 Alisa mom but it was yeah it was a funny movie it was unexpected was unpredictable which you know for a biopic or any biographical type film is always exciting because you know usually going oh I know about this person you know it’s tell me this miss miss and you know how are they gonna do this in this Miss or how is the you know so this is such and such actor going to perform or an embody this person or or whatever and in this film was it was irreverent it was satirical it clearly had an agenda and it was unapologetic about that which you know if I think a movie has an agenda and is trying to slip it in sideways it’s like yeah I don’t know but but this one was like really in your face it’s like we’re gonna talk about some things about Emily Dickinson’s Legend and how it got to be that way and and we have issues very much so I will say that I was a little less enthusiastic because of the incredibly low production values the just absolutely costumes I mean the the director did say she was inspired by drunk history and in one of the costume designers had done some episodes of drunk history and yeah that’s the aesthetic and yeah I am I’m judging on that count that’s what I do I built an online publishing Empire about around judging costumes and historical films and so that took away from my enjoyment because it was just so atrociously bad like and I mean sometimes comedic aliso and sometimes just like this is ugly like this is just like oh this is just so shitty it’s a it’s taking me out of the moment one of the things I find I need a little bit more like one of the things that’s great about drunk history is that it’s so over-the-top from start to finish you know it’s full-on just a comedy this movie was I mean there was some serious points obviously yeah you know and they in there some of the poetry and in fact was very serious and very beautiful very lyrical so there were it was he sometimes I felt like the tone wasn’t sure where I wanted to be it was a little uneven in that spec and the cost yeah it was a summing in the production values in general lent to that yeah well I felt that it had I don’t want to say a consistent tone but a unified tone because it was trying to combine both the intense emotional beauty in poetry in lalala okay so so like the scene within the grave when when it’s Emily’s death scene and there’s using her poem I died for beauty and then juxtaposing her you know in in the grave with a black soldier from the Civil War who is doing the the part of the poem about I died for truth and it’s all becomes random you find that you know it is simultaneously a little ridiculous around the edges and very beautiful and poetic but then the film does these deliberate like the breaking of the fourth wall in the scene there’s a scene where where the voiceover of missus taught Mabel Todd is is going on about how well of course Emily did admire you know her her male suitors and there’s this episode with her and the elderly judge and and there there’s a point at the end where where Todd has this voiceover about you know I forget the the why but may anyway basically this I can do yes she is she certainly you know had an admiration for him and the the actors playing Emily you know turns directly to the audience and basically rolls her eyes yes you know brain spraining fashion and there were a couple points like that where where is it’s breaking the fourth while is the turning to the audience and letting us in on the journey and so you’re right that it’s if you’re looking for a complete consistency of tone you know there’s this jar there but I sort of took it as of just a very playful you know I love this story and I’m gonna have fun with it that’s fair it’s I think again I was probably put off most by the production yeah it did of a master Kirk movie yeah it was a very yeah it was it was a very low budget budget with Mike with my credit cards and you know that’s always gonna take me out of the moment I understand that it was originally a stage production really yeah oh forget where I saw that no I do think they they’d workshopped it as as as like a stand enough wasn’t not really one woman but that’s Mel a small cast stage show III got the impression I was kind of workshopping it to see where we go good weren’t sure if it was going to be staged or if there were elements oh maybe that some of that comes out of it out of it yeah so that there may have been from the start that’s more this emphasis on the the vertol perform right right in the way this stage show would right and and I think that part definitely the the the text the film the screenwriting was pretty damn good and some of the performances I think Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson was great I loved really so much that’s right good whoo I really liked her casting I think she had that both because she has a comedic actress Tina came from Saturday alive she’s done a lot of community was in that was the little hours about a year ago just 2017 which is loosely based on the de Cameron it’s about a bunch of nuns it was super hilariously broadly fine but she she has a dry she can do a dry humor and a reserved humor very well and and and things like the the sides to the the audience and her facial expression her facial expressions are amazing and yet she can do the serious as well so she’s she’s really she’s got a lot more range than you’d think really just given the name the go someone was a lot of it and that’s especially looking into a resume the rest of her work is primarily just in straight comedy mm-hm so I think that was pretty much a genius casting yes because bringing the comedic overlay yeah I mean somebody else could have taken the same lines and not given it that same sense that and and one of the things that you know I just really loved about this was the comedy of it because it’s the basic premise of the film and this is for our listeners he had to synopsize the basic premise is that we’re seeing Emily’s life in retrospect through the the myth making of Mabel Todd now Mabel Todd was Emily’s one of Emily’s editors and she was also her brother Austin’s mistress her brother Austin who was married to Susan who is Emily’s lover in the in the movie and we’ll get on to that part of the story but but so there’s this this constant progression seeing Todd doing the the myth making she’s she’s giving lectures to audiences in connection with the publication of Emily’s palms after her death and deliberately mythologizing Emily’s life for various reasons I got it as portrayed some of it felt like jealousy because Todd had her own poetic aspirations and some of it felt like this need to control the story to control the story of the of the Dickinson’s around here are both Emily and Austin in ways that she that Todd couldn’t control in her own life because she was the mistress well and there’s a great line that’s one of my favorite lines that so todd is talking to Austin at one point saying well maybe I could publish our love letters and and make a book out of that and he says oh no that we shouldn’t do that that’s that’s silly that’s due to personal oh boy and and you know clearly she’s thinking abut I could be an author myself yes and and he says oh yes dear you should have some creative outlet too why don’t you paint crockery and and it points to something that the the director I mentioned about you know they’re a real unreliable narrator of Mabel Todd that she too does she’s not a simple villain but she is looking for you know she was a savvy woman doing what she thought this is the directors words doing what she thought was necessary for the satisfaction of her own need for creative expression even if the poetry belonged to someone else and that line about oh dear you should just paint crockery yeah I mean that’s that’s the truth of the time is that you know women as writers as authors of their own not a going concern not a not a final option there’s a there’s an underlay of that in in how Emily’s work is received and there’s this tension between Mabel Todd mythologizing that oh Emily didn’t want to be published in her own lifetime and all this and and then you you cut over to showing Emily sending her her poetry out to publisher after publisher and main tools like you’re not quite ready yet dear maybe if you made it rhyme right or wrote some of yeah the little trite stuff that was was okay for women to write at the time little something sweet and simple it rhymes yeah and not taking women as as artists as authors seriously and so you see that from both sides it makes the Mable you know much more sympathetic even as you despised her exactly yeah I mean she’s not a OneNote character yeah which it’s easy to when you when you realize that the the main crux of the story is that there’s a it’s based on this all this correspondence between Emily and Susan her her sister-in-law that Mabel Todd literally erased like from the paper like physically erase their relationship was physically erased from the records like we just and it was rediscovered and published by the scholar in in the 1989 yeah or 1998 sorry and so you know you could think of maple Todd it’s just us horrible person oh she just erased oh maybe she hates you know women who had a really should further women and no she was just you know maybe she did but the real thing is that she was building yourself up she was trying to have a career and a profit and what-have-you for herself I mean she’s looking out for number one because what else could a woman do at the time and yeah it’s kind of it’s a sorry statement on the state of affairs for everybody a patriarchy hurts everybody there or not it just with all women sorry yeah and and in this film yeah you know there’s this this tension between how much the film is showing a historic truth and how much it’s showing one reading of history because we don’t necessarily know Todd’s motivations you know there there is one strain of thought that says she was sincerely in genuine they tried to protect the reputation of her sister-in-law that’s an interesting aside on it that the one of the books that first got me into a series of research in queer women’s history was Lillian surpassing the love of men and in that book Futterman mentions that one of the things that got her into researching it was looking at the life of Emily Dickinson and how in in Dickinson’s own work and in these letters there is this this effusive very romantic definitely erotic sentiments directed towards women and then by the time her poetry is and her letters are being published there’s this this contraction this withdrawing the suppressing this this you know erasing of not just the the relationship not just the romantic aspect of the relationship with Susan but the eroticism itself and Dickinson sorry Ottoman was trying to make sense of this it’s like how within the space of one woman’s lifetime could you go from being completely open about this to being you know so very repressed about it and I disagree a lot with fundamental approach to the topic sure but it definitely is one of those turning points and there have been multiple turning points like that in history where we went from a society where women were we’re where it was normal for women to express sentimental romantic expressions towards each other in public without being self-conscious about it at all and then and then the servant comes into the garden and says love means sex and sex is evil and suddenly you’re reading Freud and so that’s one of the things this movie is trying to redeem his is saying not only was Emily’s poetry definitely romantic and erotic but so was her life she was not this repressed recluse in a white dress that okay she probably had issues yeah but that but that that aspect of her life is neither something to be hidden nor something that was unusual abnormal right I’ll take issue with the white dress too that is one thing that you know for all of this movies you know myth-busting it does go full-on with the white dress and and that’s you know she had a white dress and it survived and so that fed into the myth of the belle of Amherst and the recluse and the woman in white and it’s one wet one white dress that survives from the 1870s to the very end towards the end of her life and it was in various museums from and then finally it’s in the museum that’s her house since around 1940s lots of women wore white at the time yeah it was common as fashionable yeah it wasn’t like she were white and that was like ooh she’s weird and it’s not like she only wore white there are you know there were other dresses of hers that survived as well it’s nothing so yeah totally went full hog with that one like come on now you’re gonna bust myths let’s bust them all yeah so one of the other things that I liked about this movie was the non-linearity the way that it not only jumped back and forth from you know after Emily’s death with Todd giving the lecturers and then cutting back to the real story of the content but just the ways in which had jumped back and forth and it kept cycling through her life and yet eventually coming full circle at the end to her death and the you know the very sweet love sweetest the very poignant scene where where Susan was asked to wash and lay out her body which was you know a very personal intimate thing that was usually done by a closest female family member and and then the way that that scene gets put up on a split screen with the scene of Mabel Todd literally erasing Susan name from the correspondence and so juxtaposing that that proof of intimacy and that’s a that’s yeah an episode that nobody disputes you know that that’s part of the historic record is is that the susan was the one who who lost your body after death and so it just made this wonderful juxtaposition which of course is very deliberate you know definitely and you know that’s yeah so let’s talk about the Yellow Rose of Texas Oh God I just yeah I busted out laughing because that was so funny I mean I like when a movie about an artist or a poet or try it tries to bring that art to life I know it could be so hokey and it’s overdone but I don’t care because I like the attempt and yes the attempts can be hokey and goofy and a lot of times it’s just you know you put the the text on the screen this film does that but the actual trying to act out some metaphors yeah I just something about me loves that it’s this theatricality but it’s also it’s it’s how your mind works when you read poetry or even when you look at art you think this is a thing this is actually something happening there there’s there you know metaphors and allegories exist for reasons there’s supposed to create pictures in your head and to see that attempted on screen is just so interesting I want to again not every attempt succeeds and you know some of them were better in this film than others the Yellow Rose of Texas as because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me you know I mean yes it was hilarious and and so wrong but it was that’s that way right and also it was done to cover up sounds of look yes not intentionally but it was covering up the sounds of sex and the upstairs that I was like he more hilarious ly wrong and bad so to set this up for the listeners who may not have seen the movie yet so the scenario is this Mabel Todd is trying to get a glimpse of Emily who is this famous miklós and she offers to come over and play piano for her well well she comes over the housekeeper said well there’s the piano Emily’s upstairs she’ll be listening and that only really just doesn’t want to see her yeah like she’s our clue she she she’s fine because Emily in this film Emily knows that her brother is Mabel Todd and she just doesn’t want to deal and and the housekeeper you know lays out the music from able to play and then slips in sheet music of the Yellow Rose of Texas and that the joke here which you know all the Dickinson aficionados you know know like art is that an awful lot of the metrics of Emily Dickinson’s poetry have that particular medical scheme that scans to the Yellow Rose of Texas and a lot of other similar pieces so so you see Mabel Tom sit down to play the piano and she starts playing the Yellow Rose of Texas and then you hear this very somber meaningful poem because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me except it is to that song yeah and and and you just have to laugh because it’s like oh my god it’s the metaphor instantiated it’s hilarious admittedly you know the screening I was at there are some people who just they didn’t get it I mean they didn’t know the poem or just they just didn’t understand why is this happening which is fine it was a movie that rewarded being part of the in joke it actually did yeah you really did it helped if you knew some of the poetry you didn’t necessarily have to know her life story because and again this is telling you something that you probably don’t know about her life so yeah but it helps of you know some of the poetry yeah because you will appreciate that more like the the gardening scene and the poetry there was just so beautiful that was really beautiful and these you already mentioned the the that scene that was the other amusing one and it’s like you know gallows humor have been using so Mabel Todd’s husband evidently was institutionalized for a mental breakdown and they introduced us in a throwaway scene and he is quoting one of Emily’s poems and I forget which one it was I didn’t note that down but it was it was something about you know fit with the sight of him being hauled away in a straitjacket and it was it was funny and sad and absurd exactly I was gonna say that something I mentioned though I rock flicks review is that those performed poems reminded me a bit of Frieda the film with Salma Hayek where they recreated the poet the some of her summer pain some of her paintings came to life uh-huh and it’s that same kind of weird good kind of cool like I mean it’s like because that her paintings are very lifelike and you see then you know you see her dressed as a thing coming frame and that’s what there was this I don’t remember what the Pullman is now in Emily Dickinson’s but that’s the there and there’s like a river scene oh yeah there it that was the very dream like yes people are waiting in the river and and yeah and there was poems yeah and it was very strange and surreal but it came in a good moment we’re all right that’s power you need that so again I really appreciate those I know that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but you know I think that’s where some of the the tonal shifts sometimes worked and I think maybe didn’t won’t work for everybody because when it goes from the really funny to they’re really kind of surreal and then there are some normals they’re a little flat that I thought was really funny though the cat the cat oh god yeah so Emily Dickinson’s sister Lavinia has a cat and they are sitting around in the parlor Lavinia is petting her cat which is obviously a stuffed toy totally fake Jenna’s going meow yeah yeah oh that’s it and Emily and it’s so I don’t think it’s picture oh no it’s Susan and her sister and Emily yeah yeah and there’s this thing and Lavinia is depicted as being a bit simple and oh and the line is the cat comes into it because later because again Mabel Todd is still trying to beat Emily and and and Austen their brother is begging Emily it’s like won’t you just like just just meet her say below and and Lavinia says well my cats named Emily we could introduce her to the cab and then she say she’s met Emily and it’s like so you know it throws in these little bits that sure why not yes and the thing you said about you know you don’t have to be familiar with Emily Dickinson’s life I think that it would be very incoherent if you didn’t know the basic outlines of her life because of the non-linearity I think if you know the myth mm-hmm that’s useful yeah the crazy reclusive poets nothing published during your lifetime if you know that much I think that helps the not only air linearity I can’t say that word um we’re just going to go I mean films do that ya know you know you’re either gonna go with it or you’re not yes but I don’t because this is introducing things that most people you know like I know a lot of Dickinson I didn’t know this about her until I started looking at the film and I heard about the film like what cool we know something new but there’s been new research we know something new about Emily Dickinson awesome I wanna see this film now we’re gonna go see this come on let’s go um so you know so I went with Kendra the other writers on fry flicks and she knew basically that about Emily Dickinson and she was like that was hilarious is that real well as far as we know yeah apparently that was real but I think you know as a as a semi serious historian if I made you call myself that you know I came out of it thinking it’s like okay this is good myth-busting but it’s not good history yeah because it’s sort of it does it does the speculation in the other direction it’s like we don’t know what Emily’s internal life was sure um you know we don’t know whether they or not right for me it doesn’t matter right because you know I you know I come to this without that that early 20th century judgment that says physicality would ruin the purity of their don’t beautifully romantic friendship but but the other point though is we will we almost never know what they really thought mm-hmm when it comes to most historical figures it’s so rare I mean yeah Alistair is like one a very rare exception precisely we we have we have letters and this is you know based on some letters and so we have we don’t know the deep again romance sex what depth of what goes to what we don’t know we just unless you are analyst ER and even then she wrote in a code you know so and she wasn’t always reliable narrator even when she was not well no nobody if you’re writing in your diary you are not reliable for yourself exact so you know that’s not you reliable in either you need you know a couple other corroborating sources so there’s always some level of question mark and and supposition and you know we just have to go with it as much as we can yeah I don’t mind that I think it’s I think it’s fair considering you know the passion in the letters and the long term relationship yeah it was and the proximity it’s not like they you know lived on opposite sides of those yesiree but the girl next door literally next door and they wrote to each other for 30-some odd years and with this depth of passion and yeah it’s just a silly thing to say that they didn’t act on it in some physical way it’s beside the point is it’s you know it’s a it’s certainly reasonable plot for a movie yeah you know it’s it’s not outside the realm of possibility and so I’m gonna give it to him you can’t say they didn’t you can’t say they did it’s it’s it is what it is it’s reasonable enough to to write a movie about so I think we’re both giving this a definite thumbs up yeah yeah I think it’s definitely worth watching again with the qualifications that it is low-budget costumes suck it’s definitely art film and it’s an art film but I think that’s gonna be inevitable yeah but it’s it’s definitely fun and it’s a definitely it’s a new look at you know a subject probably most people don’t know much about so some are only know one thing about yeah so we were comparing notes on a previous Emily Dickinson film that we apparently have very different opinions on button so this is a quiet passion and it came out in 2017 or at least that’s what I’ve watched it that’s when I came out and I wait to see that one on a whim because I the traffic was awful and I decided to see a movie in downtown Berkeley before driving home and I did it it was so dreary I’m gonna read the conclusion of my review on it well the conclusion prose excerpts from Dickinson’s poetry are used to good effect and communicating mood and setting the costuming looks pretty solid you’re going to have other other comments on that although there were a few outfits that looked badly fitted in the upper torso Cynthia Nixon does an excellent job of inhabiting the role of Emily Dickinson as depicted in this sprint cause the movie makes you wonder why everyone in the 19th century didn’t just take to their beds and embrace oblivion in order to get all this dreary business of existence out of the way and move on to salvation this is the most depressing movie I’ve seen in a long time and that includes lost and delirious which is so evil I think no one should ever watch it again so that was my conclusion but you have a different take um yeah a bit more moderate I’d say it wasn’t like the favorite thing ever watched in the world but I believe I started mine with that’s what I like a quiet passion and topic such as Emily Dickinson audiences should know this biopic is not going to be full of action sex or even much romance what drama comes is from seeing how the few yet piercing events of this 19th century wreck looses life created an artistic miasma that resulted in her poetry I was I had a feeling of that bit yeah you were saying that it sort of touched your goths director writer terrence davies uses lighting angle and dialogue as precise and cutting as Dickinson’s own poetry to create believable moods and influences for an artistic life and of course he of course and intercuts something makes in the classic instance speaking with the boat speaking the poetry intercuts with cynics and speaking the poetry at appropriate scenes so yeah it’s like a poetic artsy thing and it’s and it’s slow oh yes also this film is not for everyone aren’t already a fan yeah if you aren’t already a fan but Emily big incentives may seem too slow and moody and you better it might be better off just picking up a book of her poems and seeing if any of them stick yeah so it was very of us Furyk I will get that and that was what I was trying to say it’s atmospheric I love something Nixon’s performance I thought she was excellent I liked how snarky she was she was kind of she had these funny Barb’s and she was kind of she was witty and a little mean and times and she wasn’t the you know an icy little shy withering thing that kind of the dice Victoria no she was and and the costumes were decent I by the way though 1842 1860s is as we have often said in frocks links frock flicks primetime of the death of fashion so they’re boring and but they didn’t find they there was a thing that the I think the costume designer the director said about those no the director said about people were dirty they smelled and their lives were anything about anything but prettiest prettiness so in this film only the father has a stiff collar all the other characters have floppy ones because they would have sweat through them and so he wanted to kind of a lived-in look which fine whatever it’s yeah and it really well so in some ways a client passion lived the the mythologizing you know the the preoccupation with mortality it really dwell a lot on the physical hardships of life in the 19th century and and Emily’s mother’s lingering chronic illness it really went into her family life with her mother and her father pastor and father the whole her bickering religious bickering yeah between us her family members which I mean that’s that was true that was important and I think that’s you know that’s the side of her life that is went into her poetry as much because she’s so much of her poetry the the preoccupation with death which yes is why I love her poems Oh God it happens but that comes out of her religious questioning and and battles with the religion she was given from her father and her struggle with that and her questioning of that and what does it mean and what is what is death and all of that that’s going around and she’s that’s not just her the entire tenor of the times of ours Victorian preoccupation with mortality and death is legendary so it you know it’s not a uniquely Dickinson thing no but the way she expressed on her poems yes was was her unique way because she wasn’t doing it well first off she was a woman doing it and she was doing it in a unique meter and and she was questioning yes you’re in contemplative not in a necessarily morbid way but but what does this all mean yeah yeah I’m really questioning really you know saying you know the the prescribed religion isn’t it’s there it means something but maybe it’s not exactly going down that exact way mmm I mean she’s she’s alive she’s my no means she’s an atheist she definitely was very much Christian but it was she was kind of questioning the dogma yeah I I saw something he wanted four biographies about how you know one of these traveling revival shows that come through and she tried on you know the whole you know you know um save Jesus thing and it didn’t stay and and at some point later maybe it’s in one of her poems it’s something about you know some people you know pray in church and and I pray you know in yeah yeah she should get the exact line but yeah I mean she probably would have had more in common with the transcendentalist if she you know got out and they come near her I mean that was I can’t remember my East Coast geography but because the Massachusetts where was Ralph Waldo not well well anyway Emerson actually shows up in in wild nights without a license was he’s a mumbler oh yes so only thinking of the the the the publisher yeah Higginson Higginson who was played by a guy who shows up in drunk history all the time oh no it’s alright no another period he shows up a drunk history but he’s not in another period he plays Hamish the gardener yeah yeah he was he was quite a character yeah and so so he even said is is the publisher who published Mabel Todd’s edition of Dickinson and then there’s a huge scene where she just or Dickinson harangues him for like well there’s like essentially there’s a clock going around and she’s just questioning and saying just everything and it’s amazing it’s great scene cuz she just has this he basically walks away saying that woman exhaust me yes it’s it’s great it’s like it’s very much the antithesis to the idea of Dickinson don’t want anything published or didn’t have any you know literary opinions during your life you just sit there and scribbled and tucked her poems away that nonsense yeah so it you know the two of them together make an interesting angle you know it’s not just the myth and the DeMuth ala Josie but it’s it’s the sort of very serious somber take yeah and then the the deflation the poking fun the not taking seriously I think together they do they do make a better whole together than each on their own yeah I mean I think that’s what’s that’s what I love is when there are very different biographical films because you know when we get certain characters that are made in films that are it’s always the same you know Elizabeth they become a mirror for the for the director’s vision you know rather than themselves and they’re not telling because there are these two films in particular are telling different parts of that same person’s story and they fit together very in an interesting way not like perfect they’re not like perfect but they tell different parts that are perfectly valid parts one kind of me they each ignore different parts yeah but they’re also telling parts that happened and that’s cool because you learn different things or you can see the directors different take on different things it’s much like reading different biographies you know when you’re actually getting more of a historical side but even just seeing it on film seeing a different take I was almost tempted to go see if I could dredge up a copy of the belle of Amherst I have tried to watch that because there’s a really shitty version or at least there was on Amazon and it was just such a bad because that’s like it was like earlier than it might be maybe that’s why it was such a bad version that I couldn’t watch much much of it was just so and it was as they say very much of its time yeah I was just I remember the quality was so bad of the the street you know cuz of Amazon when they probably streaming an old VCR or something nobody much was like that and I couldn’t it was I just couldn’t try so you know I could get after what it was like but yeah I just couldn’t I couldn’t take yeah well so I did that you did that yeah but I think these two you know they’re definitely they definitely tell some some you know certainly valid points mmm you know one more recent one more up on the scholarship certainly and each with their own you know well the wild nights with Emily is definitely I definitely I would say it has an agenda I don’t know that I would say a quiet passion had an agenda it definitely had an opinion but it it it does that thing where it purports to be the the rationale true version which is itself an agenda but not in the same way yeah I mean quiet passion was trying to be the the standard mmm yeah and you know one of those hadn’t been done about Emily Dickinson mm-hm so you know it was about time she got at least that do yes and and for such a seminal figure in American poetry hmm to not have anything except for one and I think about him Belle Belle of Amherst was like an hour long TV movie so to have a you know relatively big bigger budget and well-known director do the full full screen treatment that was something but I would definitely encourage people with any interest in in Emily Dickinson in poetry in feminism in the Victorian romantic ship movements any of those not people who are interested in really well researched costume but to definitely see wild nights with Emily and go into it ready to laugh yeah and it’s supposed to be on streaming services sometime this summer yeah it’s still making the arthouse circuit right now and it did the festival circuit last year right yes yeah but it should be ready for general distribution pretty soon now and I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on itunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music] because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me the carriage held but just ourselves and immortality we slowly drove he knew no haste and I had put away my labor and my leisure too for his civility we passed the school which Aldrin strove at recess in the ring we passed the fields of gazing brain we passed the Setting Sun or rather he passed us the dews grew quivering and chill for only gossamer my gown my tippet only tall we pause before a house that seemed a swelling of the ground the roof was scarcely visible the cornice in the ground since then two centuries and yet feel shorter than the day I first surmised the horses heads were toward eternity