A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson

A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson

A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson

A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson

Synopsis

One of America's most celebrated women, Emily Dickinson was virtually unpublished in her own time and unknown to the public at large. Today her poetry is commonly anthologized and widely praised for its precision, its intensity, its depth and beauty. Dickinson's life and work, however, remain in important ways mysterious. This collection of essays, all of them previously unpublished, represent the best of contemporary scholarship and points the way toward exciting new directions for the future. The volume includes a biographical essay that covers some of the major turning points in the poet's life, especially those emphasized by her letters. Other essays discuss Dickinson's religious beliefs, her response to the Civil War, her class-based politics, her place in a tradition of American women's poetry, and the editing of her manuscripts. A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson concludes with a rich bibliographical essay describing the controversial history of Dickinson's life in print, together with a substantial bibliography of relevant sources.

Excerpt

Emily Dickinson's language leads in many different directions. Virtually unpublished during her lifetime and seemingly ambivalent about publication in the future, she emerged dramatically in the twentieth century as one of America's most distinguished and distinctive poets. But if Dickinson's originality is universally credited, her generative affiliations—the emotional and intellectual loyalties that made her who she was—are more difficult to discern, and many of the essays in this volume address the question, “For and to whom does Dickinson speak?”

There is an emerging consensus that Dickinson wrote most powerfully during the Civil War, and that she participated in a larger national debate about the meaning of life itself when pressured by death. As a poet of the inner civil war, she used images of death and dying to clarify her own experience, and she frequently psychologized military tropes. The essays in this volume, all previously unpublished, either seek to identify the various personal and cultural traumas to which Dickinson was responding or to recuperate nineteenth-century literary and social contexts that our collective cultural memory has seemingly erased. The contributors themselves present some of the most exciting new approaches to Dickinson—approaches that not only situate her in history but that also appreciate the particular and unique angle . . .

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