Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Thomas Koenigs

Reader 2

Professor Tessie Prakas

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2023 Isabel Evans


For more than eighty years, scholars believed that the earliest version of Emily Dickinson’s “Further in Summer than the Birds,” a major mid-career poem often regarded as “one of Dickinson’s finest” (McSweeney 155) and “best-known poems,” had been lost (Franklin, “The Manuscripts” 552). Yet, against all odds, the manuscript survived, resurfacing miraculously at Ella Strong Denison Library, the special collections library at Scripps College in Claremont, California, in 1986, exactly a century after Dickinson’s death. Known as the Vanderbilt Variant of “Further in Summer than the Birds,” this poem continues to be misprinted, overlooked, and under analyzed by Dickinson scholars even fifty years after its remarkable recovery, a critical gap in which this essay intervenes. As the first extended analysis of the manuscript of the Vanderbilt variant as a self-contained poem to date, this essay contends that the manuscript of the Vanderbilt variant contains powerful ambiguities in lineation, spacing, meter, and mark, which are not discernable in the print transcripts of the poem. There remains an essential quality about Dickinson’s manuscript that is untranslatable, which cannot be adequately communicated by a printer’s set of standard characters and their uniform arrangement of text on the page. Attending to these ambiguities and restoring focus to the frequently overlooked middle three stanzas of the poem, this essay insists that paying attention to these important details of the manuscript fundamentally alters the way we read the Vanderbilt variant and how we understand the poem’s thematic interest in the sanctity of the natural world and the processes by which humans observe it.