Seminar Series

The Lives of Emily Dickinson:

Poetry, Philosophy, Sexuality

A seminar with

Jerome Charyn 

Award-winning American novelist, essayist, and author of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel and A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century

James Melo

musicologist for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century and Senior Editor at RILM Abstracts of Music Literature



CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Skylight Room, 9th floor


For more information:; 212-817-8606

Presented by the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, CUNY,

and the Ensemble for the Romantic Century in connection with ERC’s theatrical concert

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson belongs to that class of artists who continuously challenge interpretation through the magnitude of their vision. Her astoundingly original poetry continues to disturb, delight, intrigue, and challenge us today. In this seminar, Jerome Charyn presents a revisionary picture of the great poet in ways that challenge received opinions: as a woman who was deeply philosophical, intensely engaged with the world, and attracted to members of both sexes. Music figured prominently in Dickinson's poetry. The seminar will address the use of musical imagery in her poems, from the sounds of the natural world to the role of music as a source of inspiration and transcendence. The music of Amy Beach will be discussed in preparation for a theatrical concert that merges her music and a dramatic monologue based on Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

Jerome Charyn, master of lyrical farce and literary ventriloquism, published his first novel in 1964. He's the author of JERZY: A Novel of Jerzy Kosinski, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham, and dozens of other acclaimed novels and nonfiction works. His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative and Ellery Queen. Charyn's groundbreaking study A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century—the subject of a new documentary narrated by Cynthia Nixon: 'My Letter to the World'—explores Emily's secret life as a powerful bisexual woman.Winter Warning, 12th in Charyn's popular crime series, finds homicide detective Isaac Sidel in the White House as the accidental president. The worldwide fame of Charyn's political thrillers inspired a new animated drama series for the small screen, Hard Apple, the brainchild of Charyn in partnership with Liquid Media, an international production company founded by A-list actor Joshua Jackson (The Affair). Hard Apple will be illustrated by artists Asaf and TomerHanuka, the team behind Waltz with Bashir. Charyn’s novel The Perilous Adventures ofthe Cowboy King, about the life of Teddy Roosevelt, will be published in January by Liveright/Norton and his book of essays, Under the Shadow of King Saul, will be published this month by Bellevue Literary Press.

As of 2017, Charyn has published 37 novels, three memoirs, nine graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named “New York Times Book of the Year”.Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Fiction in 1983. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until 2009, when he retired from teaching. In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn's book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong." Charyn lives in New York and Paris.



With each concert production ERC hosts a seminar. This series of seminars at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), in partnership with the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, fulfills one of the founding principles of ERC: merging performance and musicological research in order to enrich the musical experience of the listener through a variety of interdisciplinary discussions. Each seminar centers on a discussion of music in relation to an extra-musical context (literature, philosophy, visual arts, cinema, and others) that is pertinent to the parallel ERC theatrical concert. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines are invited to participate in the seminars, offering the audience an opportunity to engage in intriguing, illuminating, and aesthetically revealing perspectives about the subject matter.

The seminars are free to the public and are held one to two weeks before the concerts.

James Melo has written extensively for scholarly journals and music magazines in Brazil, Uruguay, the United States, and Austria, and has been invited to participate as a panel discussant in conferences in Indiana, New York, and Canada. He has written program notes for several concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and for over 70 recordings on the Chesky, Naxos, Paulus, and Musikus labels, among others. He is the New York correspondent for the magazine Sinfónica in Uruguay, reviewer of music iconography for the journal Music in Art, and senior editor at RILM (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale) at CUNY. In March 2005, he chaired a session in the conference Music and Intellectual History, organized by the Barry Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation (CUNY), and presented a paper on the history of musicological research in Brazil. He received a grant from the Paul SacherStiftung in Basel, Switzerland, where he conducted research on the manuscripts of Anton Webern.

Mr. Melo is the program annotator for the recording of the complete piano music of Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri on Naxos, and the program annotator for the National Philharmonic in Strathmore, MD.In 2006and 2007 he collaborated with the Montréal Chamber Music Festival as musicologist and program notes writer. In March 2008, he chaired a session on music iconography in Brazil and Portugal in the conference Music, Body, and Stage: The Iconography of Music Theater and Opera at CUNY Graduate Center. He was the scriptwriter for Seduction, Smoke and Music, performed at The Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona in the summer of 2011, with Jeremy Irons as Chopin and Sinéad Cusack as George Sand. Mr. Melo has authored several scripts for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, including My Heart, My Serpent: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Schubert’s Dream, The Trial of Oscar Wilde, Porust’s Courts of Love, Emily Dickinson: Herself to Her a Music, Dracula, Cruel Beauty: Rimbaud and Verlaine, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. Mr. Melo is on the piano and musicianship faculty at the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York City.




Our mind is an abyss which delights in depths profound…
We love mystery, under whatever form it comes.
— Honoré de Balzac