Academic journal article ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly)

The Current State of Freeman Bibliographical and Textual Studies

Academic journal article ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly)

The Current State of Freeman Bibliographical and Textual Studies

Article excerpt

The past twenty-five years have witnessed an explosion of scholarly interest in Mary Wilkins Freeman. One new biography, dozens of critical articles, and several book volumes interpreting Freeman's works have been published, and there are currently twenty editions of her fiction in print. Unfortunately, however, during that time the state of Freeman bibliographical and textual studies has hardly changed. Numerous gaps in the record of Freeman's publications still exist, no descriptive bibliography of her periodical contributions has been created, and no authoritative texts of her works are to be found.

This essay will make a number of corrections and additions to Freeman's bibliography as currently constituted and will show why further bibliographical and textual work is needed. It is imperative that a concerted effort be made to update the bibliographical record of Freeman's works using modern bibliographical theory and to create authoritative editions of her texts, not only in order to help us understand Freeman's entire career and better assess the role her works played in American culture, but also to help ensure Freeman's place in the American literary canon.

The sole bright spot in Freeman bibliography is the "Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman" entry contained in volume 3 of the Bibliography of American Literature (1959), which provides a useful and relatively complete listing of the books in which her works appeared. Philip B. Eppard published an addenda to the BAL entry in 1980, but since that time no further additions or corrections have appeared in print. More troublesome, though, is the paucity of bibliographical work conducted on Freeman's periodical contributions. Some scholars have questioned whether documenting all of these is even worthwhile. In his 1967 biography of Freeman, Perry D. Westbrook wrote of her uncollected works, "In general these fugitive pieces contribute nothing to one's understanding of their author" (183), and in the revised edition of this biography published in 1988, Westbrook provides only a few more primary source listings than he did twenty years earlier (155-57). Others, however, have tried to go beyond the brief listings of her works provided by Westbrook, Ina Ten Eyck Firkin's Index to Short Stories (1923), and by Edward Foster at the back of his Freeman biography (1956). George Monteiro published an "Addenda to Foster's Freeman" in 1975, and Brent L. Kendrick provided a great deal of bibliographical information in the footnotes to The Infant Sphinx: The Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1985).

Five years later Eppard, along with Mary R. Reichardt, published "A Checklist of Uncollected Short Fiction by Mary Wilkins Freeman," which added more than 50 titles to Foster's list. Eppard and Reichardt candidly acknowledged the daunting task of compiling a comprehensive bibliography of Freeman's works and the incompleteness of their own list. "In no way," they wrote, "should this [bibliographical] information be interpreted as constituting an exhaustive record of a story's publication" (71). Instead, they offered, "The whole list ... should, like any bibliography, be regarded as an imperfect record to which additions and corrections are welcome" (71). They concluded with their hope "that the publication of this list will be an incentive to further bibliographical work" (71). Yet, since that time no substantial additions to Freeman's bibliography have been made. Instead, the same bibliographical information provided by Eppard and Reichardt in 1990, with only minor additions, continues to be repeated, most recently in appendices to Reichardt's The Uncollected Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman (1992), A Web of Relationship: Women in the Short Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman (1992), and Mary Wilkins Freeman: A Study of the Short Fiction (1997).

One of the greatest blind spots of current Freeman bibliography is that it includes very few of the works she wrote for children. …

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