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Lecture 7 Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson (1830 ~ 1886)

Biography
1. born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a family well known for educational and political activity 2. educated at Amherst Academy (1834-47) and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (1847-48) 3. After the Civil War Dickinson restricted her contacts outside Amherst to exchange of letters, and settled down to a normal New England village life. 4. After Dickinson's death in 1886, her sister Lavinia brought out her poems, while in her entire lifetime, only 7 out of all the 1775 poems were published. 5. 1955 edition of Emily Dickinson's poems finally gave readers a complete and accurate text.

Development of Her Literary Career
1. Calvinism with its doctrine of predestination and its pessimism pressured her during her childhood and adolescence and colored her work so that her basic tone was tragic. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles did the “surgery” to her published work. The loss of her “tutors”: Benjamin Newton (1853) and Charles Wadsworth (1862); “bereft” twice: My life closed twice before its close 1914: more poems coming to light, fame established 1950: Harvard University bought all her copyright; she was “rediscovered” in a new century

2. 3.

4. 5.

Themes of Her Poems
1. Death & Immortality: one third of her poems 2. Love: never imitating others, unique 3. Nature: both gaily benevolent and cruel 4. Science: it will not trust us with another world; it can never destroy the mystery of nature 5. Ethics: free will and human responsibility; renunciation of anything low or hostile to man’s spiritual heritage and selfrespect 6. Attacks against over-emphasis on materialism and commercialism, while warm response to the expansion of America 7. Fame: If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her.

Her Poetic Techniques
A Courageous Experimentalist 1. Concrete images of an inspired thought 2. Severe economy of expression 3. Laconic brevity, directness, and plainest words 4. A precursor of the Imagist movement

Appreciation of Poems
1. This is My Letter to the World This is my letter to the world, That never wrote to me, The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty. Her message is committed To hands I cannot see; For love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me!

1.1 What is the poet’s letter to the world? What news does it contain? To whom is it delivered? Why does she implore her countrymen to judge her tenderly? 1.2 One could say that Emily Dickinson is expressing her vision of the poet’s task and function in this poem. What is the role of the poet according to her? What is the poet’s relationship to the world? How would you define the role of the poet?

2. My Life Closed Twice before Its Close My life closed twice before its close; It yet remains to see If immortality unveil A third event to me, So huge, so hopeless to conceive As these that twice befell. Parting is all we know of heaven, And all we need of hell.

3. I’m Nobody! Who Are You? I'M Nobody! Who are you? Are you--Nobody--too? Then there's a pair of us! Dont tell! they'd advertise--you know! How dreary--to be--Somebody! How public--like a Frog– To tell your name--the livelong June– To an admiring Bog!

3.1 What does the speaker wish to have in common with the reader? Explain whether you feel it is better to be “Nobody” or “Somebody”. 3.2 Explain why it it “dreary—to be—Somebody!” 3.3 Discuss the simile in line 6. Why does it work so well? 3.4 What does the speaker think of most people?

4. Success

Success is counted sweetest By those who ne'er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need. Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today Can tell the definition So clear of Victory As he defeated--dying-On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and clear!

1. How is success defined in this poem? To what extent does that definition agree with your own understanding of the word? 2. What do you think is meant by the use of “comprehend” in line 3? How can a nectar be comprehended? 3. Why do the defeated understand victory better than the victorious? 4. Discuss the effect of the poem’s final line.

Whitman & Dickinson
1. Similarities Both were American poets in theme and technique. ① Thematically, both extolled, in their different ways, an emergent America, its expansion, its individualism and its Americanness.②Technically, both added to the literary independence of the new nation by breaking free of the convention of the iambic pentameter and exhibiting a freedom in form unknown before

2. Differences 2.1 Whitman seems to keep his eye on society at large; Dickinson explores the inner life of the individual 2.2 Whitman is “national” (in his outlook); Dickinson is “regional” 2.3 Whitman uses endless, all inclusive catalogs; Dickinson uses concise, direct and simple diction and syntax.

Thanks For Your Kind Attention !!!


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