February 5, 2014

Literature Prof. Wendy Martin collaborates with 30 students to publish Emily Dickinson encyclopedia

Wendy Martin, professor of American literature and American Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has collaborated with more than two dozen of her graduate students to publish a comprehensive two volume encyclopedia examining the cultural, political, and material world of poet Emily Dickinson.

All Things Dickinson coverAll Things Dickinson: An Encyclopedia of Emily Dickinson’s World (ABC-CLIO, 2014) explores religious beliefs, medical practices, education, the Civil War, social etiquette and the practice of letter writing, servants, the founding of Amherst College, funeral practices, agriculture, the railroad, and more.

"The encyclopedia is intended to serve scholars, teachers, students, and the general educated reader to help them to understand the world in which Emily Dickinson lived and wrote her highly original poetry," Martin said. "She was a modernist well before her time and in many respects is only now being fully recognized and appreciated for her extraordinary poetry."

Martin is one of the country’s leading Dickinson experts. She has published two previous books and many essays on Dickinson and is frequently asked to write and lecture about the poet.

Having already established herself as a scholar, Martin has turned her attention to helping her students do the same by involving them more closely in her research and publications. For All Things Dickinson, the professor tapped two PhD students, Laura Bauer and Karen Beth Strovas, to serve as associated editors. Together they created a long list of assignments to be carried out by 30 graduate students from the fields of English, history, cultural studies, philosophy, religion, art, music, politics, and economics.

"This means that they not only do the research but that they are involved in the writing as well and get appropriate credit as co-authors or contributors depending on the level of involvement," Martin said. "Not all publishers are willing to give graduate students credit as co-authors, or contributors, but I have decided to make this a stipulation before signing a publishing contract from here on in."

Strovas, who graduated with a PhD in English in 2011, said her work on the encyclopedia strengthened her leadership and management skills and helped her develop contacts in the publishing industry. She said it is extraordinary for students to leave graduate school with legitimate scholarly publications on their CVs, and she believes the experience will lead to more serious job opportunities for those who contributed.

"Dr. Martin has always felt strongly about supporting her students’ professional development and finding ways for her students to gain experience early and often, long before they enter the job market," said Strovas, who is now an assistant professor of literature and writing at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, TX. "All Things Dickinson has been that outlet for dozens of Claremont students and graduates, and it will probably prove valuable in ways we do not even know yet."