Michael Field is the pseudonym of two women writers, Katharine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913). The women co-composed eight volumes of poetry and 27 verse-dramas, as well as two-dozen volumes of journals entitled Works and Days. Self-called “poets and lovers,” Katharine and Edith were aunt and niece, lovers, collaborators, and opinionated literary-society women.
As Emma Donoghue says in her biography We are Michael Field, “Generally they are characterized as pathetic literary hangers-on; and the prejudices against women writers (especially collaborators, spinsters, and lesbians) that dogged their career still linger on” (i). Since 1998 when Donoghue penned that sentence, the scholarly interest in the Michael Fields has grown stronger; however, the paltry presence of the Michael Fields’ work on college syllabi suggests their relative obscurity continues well into the 21st-century.
What follows here is an attempt to create online, annotated edition of the 1892 volume of poems entitled Sight and Song appropriate for a range of students. The vision was to create a teaching tool that will allow students access to both the poems and their associated images as well as background information for comprehension. A volume of ekphrastic poetry, we carefully paired each poem with its painting counterpart and then worked to make legible the historical, literary, and artistic allusions presented in the poems. The immediate access to images and interactive text make Sight and Song more accessible to students and teachers alike and brings to the forefront the current relevance of a text previously marginalized. Moreover, it brings out of the shadows the Michael Fields—whose odd life story and subversive writing has the potential to resonate with current students.
This project was funded during the summer of 2015 through the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund and in collaboration with the Dickinson College Media Center.
I am so grateful to the Dickinson College Media Center, and especially Todd Bryant who helped write the grant that originally started this project. Thanks too to Ryan Burke who created a website of which the Michael Fields would be proud.
Thank you to the Waidner-Spahr Library as well as the Dickinson College Trout Gallery, specifically Dr. Heather Flaherty, Curator of Education.
Finally, our three summer 2015 student workers immersed themselves and produced beautiful work. Thank you to Georgia Christman, ’17 and Kathleen Jarman, ’16 for their research and writing. The majority of the annotations and background research are written by these two English majors. Thanks also to Sai Grandhi, ’17 for his coding and careful building of our annotation program.
For further information, please feel free to contact me at kershs(at)dickinson.edu or sarahkersh.com.