Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive
Series II of the Elizabeth Bishop Papers at Vassar College houses the poet’s “Professional Correspondence, Contracts, and Financial Statements.” What is one to make of this series? More to the point: Why would one make anything of it at all, beyond taking its contents as corroborating documents, no longer if ever necessary, for lines on Bishop’s curriculum vitae? When I told the NEH Summer Seminar of my curiosity about Bishop’s professional self-fashioning, and thus of my plan to read through the professional materials, one colleague remarked, “That’ll get old real quick.” Titters all around, including from me. We were laughing knowingly about the blandness of professional documentation in general, about the foregone boredom of literary contracts, grant applications, statements of purpose, royalties reports, notifications of prizes, professional chronologies and CVs, and the like. But we were also laughing specifically about the idea of such things in relation to the study of Elizabeth Bishop, where they hardly seem to belong.
Seiler, Claire. "The Matter of Elizabeth Bishop's Professionalism." In Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive, edited by Bethany Hicok, 303-318. Amherst, MA: Lever Press, 2020.