Editing Charlotte Wilder
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Room 38
121 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511
The poet Charlotte Wilder (1898-1980) was one of three younger sisters of the novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder, and the oldest daughter in the prolific and literary family. Her poems appeared in magazines such as "Poetry", "The Nation", and "The North Georgia Review" in the 1930s, and she published two volumes of poetry, "Phases of the Moon" (1936) and "Mortal Sequence" (1939), both well received by critics. In 1941 she suffered a schizophrenic crisis and was hospitalized. She remained in institutions, with the exception of a brief period living in New York City during the early 1950s, for the rest of her life. Although her aspirations to continue as a professional writer remained, her writing career came to an end with the onset of mental illness.
The life and work of Charlotte Wilder offers a striking case study for issues of authorship and gender in 1930s America. Her previously published but out of print volumes speak uniquely to the aesthetic imperatives and the milieu of modernism. She left behind approximately 200 unpublished poems that reflect her distinctive intellect and emotional landscape. She was at different times both brilliantly experimental and innovatively traditional in her practice, with a broad scope of expertise as a writer and an individual formal trajectory. She crafted poetry with subtlety and surprise.
Completing her term as a Thornton Wilder Fellow in Wilder Studies, Caroline Maun will discuss the rewards and challenges of editing a proposed volume that collects Charlotte Wilder’s published and unpublished verse.
Caroline Maun is Associate Professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. She is the editor of "The Collected Poems of Evelyn Scott" (National Poetry Foundation, 2005) and the author of "Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle" (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2012). She has published one volume of poetry, "The Sleeping", and her second volume titled "What Remains" is forthcoming in 2013.