Queer Heritage and Strategic Humour in Recent Screen Biofictions of Emily Dickinson


  • Barbara Braid University of Szczecin
  • Anna Gutowska Jan Kochanowski University of Kielce




A Quiet Passion, biofiction, biomythography, Dickinson, Emily Dickinson, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, post-authenticity, queer heritage, queer humour, Wild Nights with Emily


The article discusses three latest screen portrayals of Emily Dickinson, namely Terence Davies’s biopic A Quiet Passion (2016), Madeleine Olnek’s independent biographical comedy Wild Nights with Emily (2018), and Alena Smith’s Apple TV+ teen series Dickinson (2019-2021), examining to what extent these texts can be termed neo-Victorian biofictions. The article focuses on the latter two screen products, which are analysed as queer and self-reflexive biofictions, questioning and subverting the dominant cultural image of the poet as a reclusive writer and thinker, and portraying her in an irreverent and often humorous way. Their respective creators both chose to make Dickinson’s love affair with her sister-in-law the driving force of the plot, demythologising the poet and claiming her as an icon of queer heritage. In turn, Terence Davies’s 2016 biopic is treated as a counterfoil to the other two, by virtue of its startlingly conservative and heteronormative agenda. Furthermore, the article discusses the use of humour as a strategy in queer biofiction, and finally it analyses how Olnek’s and Smith’s projects deploy romantic comedy tropes in their presentation of the romance between Emily Dickinson and Sue Gilbert.