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Reading as sculpture: Roni Horn and Emily Dickinson
Heisler, Eva

2005, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, History of Art.

The United States sculptor Roni Horn has produced four bodies of work that present lines from Emily Dickinson as aluminum columns and cubes: How Dickinson Stayed Home (1992-3); When Dickinson Shut Her Eyes (1993); Keys and Cues (1994); and Untitled (Gun) (1994). This dissertation examines Horn’s Dickinson-objects within the context of twentieth century sculpture as well as within the context of debates surrounding the material and conceptual circumference of the Dickinson poem. It is argued that Horn’s work harness the syntactical demands of the Dickinson lyric in the service of the artist’s preoccupation with temporal experience and the demands of sculpture.


Each of the dissertation’s four chapters discusses one work in terms of both Dickinson studies and the history of sculpture. Chapter One considers How Dickinson Stayed Home and examines circumference as theme and artistic strategy in Dickinson’s work followed by a discussion of the dialectical relationship between center and circumference enacted by the work of Robert Smithson and Richard Serra. Chapter Two investigates the relationship between part and whole that characterizes the Dickinson poem followed by a discussion of Keys and Cues within the context of minimalism. Chapter Three argues that When Dickinson Shut Her Eyes is not only a reading of Dickinson but a doubling of Dickinson. A comparison of When Dickinson Shut Her Eyes to Dickinson-inspired works by Joseph Cornell and Lesley Dill explores the difference between reading and doubling. Chapter Four considers Horn’s 1994 untitled work (Gun) and discusses the significance of the poem “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun” within the Dickinson corpus and within feminist literary criticism in order to highlight a tension at the heart of Horn’s series—that between the experience of the Dickinson poem as “work” and the experience of Dickinson’s words as “text.” A comparison of Horn’s use of Dickinson’s words with the use of text by Lawrence Weiner, Mary Kelly, and Jenny Holzer provides a context for evaluating the degree to which Horn’s work participates in what the art critic Craig Owens has characterized as the transformation of the visual field into a textual field.

Stephen Melville (Advisor)
207 p.

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Heisler, E. (2005). Reading as sculpture: Roni Horn and Emily Dickinson. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Heisler, Eva. "Reading as sculpture: Roni Horn and Emily Dickinson." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2005. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Oct 2017.

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Heisler, Eva "Reading as sculpture: Roni Horn and Emily Dickinson." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2005. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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