Emily Dickinson's Imagery

Emily Dickinson's Imagery

Emily Dickinson's Imagery

Emily Dickinson's Imagery

Excerpt

The controversy that surrounded Rebecca Patterson's first full-length study will not be lessened by this one. Readers will no doubt still be provoked by her thesis of Emily Dickinson's lesbian attachment to her sister-in-law Sue and her friend Kate Scott (Turner) Anthon; they may not agree that "there is no more erotic poetry in the English language." Serious critics of her poetry, however, will have to deal with Patterson's scholarship on both counts. Certainly, the evidence she presents from an intense scrutiny of the poetry reinforces other psychological studies, and her analysis of recurrent words and images, often sound and illuminating, is a major contribution to a comprehensive study of Emily Dickinson's imagery.

Rebecca Patterson's work over the past thirty years encompassed many aspects of Emily Dickinson criticism and in some respects anticipated particular developments. The intense interest in "the myth of Amherst" when edited examples of Emily Dickinson's poetry first appeared inspired the publication of many articles and books dealing with particulars of her life and speculations about a possible "lover." This emphasis on biography was perhaps abetted by the fact that her poetry was difficult to assimilate to popular nineteenth- and twentieth-century norms. It was not until the publication of Thomas H. Johnson's scholarly edition of all the poetry discovered by 1955, which followed, as best it could in printed form, the actual manuscript marks and which provided all the variants, that attention could turn seriously to the poetry itself.

Although recent theoretical concerns, emerging primarily from studies in the psychology of consciousness, structuralism, and linguistics, are developing new approaches toward the interrelationships of artist, text, and reader, most Emily Dickinson criticism since 1955 has concentrated on biography or textual analysis. Such criticism has reached a level of scholarship in both . . .

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