An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia

An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia

An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia

An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia

Synopsis

Emily Dickinson's poetry has taken its place at the heart of the American literary canon, and readers now raise questions about the poet herself, the environment that sustained and challenged her, her artistic choices, and the implications of her poems. This encyclopedia features several hundred entries on persons, places, and institutions connected with Dickinson; cultural influences affecting her; stylistic aspects of her poetry; editorial and publication history; reception of her poems; critical approaches to her art; and modern responses to her in other art forms, as well as thoughtful commentaries on a representative selection of poems. Recommendations for further reading follow each entry, and the book includes a general bibliography of cited Dickinson scholarship. The volume also includes a chronology, appendices, and a guide to centers for archival research.

Excerpt

When Emily Dickinson responded to one of Thomas Wentworth Higginson's questions early in their acquaintance by remarking, "All men say 'What' to me, but I thought it a fashion --" (L271), she found a graceful way to alert her mentor that she was accustomed to arousing curiosity but had developed defenses against self-revelation. Now that her poetry has taken its place at the heart of America's literary canon, readers continue to raise questions about the poet herself, the environment that sustained and challenged her, her artistic choices, and the implications of her poems. Some of these questions can be decisively answered within this book's encyclopedic framework. Others continue to provoke speculation. Those who consult this encyclopedia can count on learning, for example, which of her Sweetser correspondents were related to the Dickinsons and which of them were neighbors but should expect no definitive identification of the person she addressed as "Master." Even though one turns to an encyclopedia for distilled nuggets of factual information, one must recognize in this case the continuing fact of Emily Dickinson's amazing ability to keep us rejoicing with Higginson in the "sparkles of light" emerging from the "fiery mist" in which she hid herself (L330a).

This encyclopedia provides succinctly informative entries on people important to Emily Dickinson: family members, friends, neighbors, and persons who influenced her. Other entries report on places and institutions familiar to her and aspects of nineteenth-century New England culture. There are also entries on the editing history of her poems and letters, reception of her work in the United States and other parts of the world, and the impact of various scholarly and critical methodologies on Dickinson scholarship. Readers may also consult entries on Dickinson's stylistic traits, her use of such poetic devices as metaphor and oxymoron, and her relation to various literary traditions. Because Joseph Duchac's annotated guides to The Poems of Emily Dickinson 1890-1977 and 1978-1989 already provide invaluable reviews of critical commentary on each . . .

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