Presentation on theme: "Emily Dickinson 1830 - 1886. Early Life She was born to religious, well-to-do family and had a normal childhood in Amherst, Massachusetts. Everyone expected."— Presentation transcript:
Early Life She was born to religious, well-to-do family and had a normal childhood in Amherst, Massachusetts. Everyone expected her to marry and raise a family like most women of her class. This all suddenly changed when she was 24.
She became a poet and recluse. “Dickinson used precise language and unique poetic forms to simultaneously reveal and conceal her private thoughts and feelings” (Elements of Literature 345). What happened to turn a young girl into an unrecognized poet who never left her house?
What would cause a young woman of 24 suddenly to isolate herself within her yard and house and ignore the world outside?
Speculations about Why Went to DC with her father, a congressman, because she had fallen in love with a married lawyer, who soon died of TB. There fell in love with another married man, a minister. He moved to San Francisco in 1862. About this time she wrote, “I sing as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid.”
Return to Amherst Within a few years, she had retreated from all social life in Amherst. Always wearing white, like the bride she would never be, she remained in her parents’ house and restricted herself to household work and writing poetry, which she would sometimes send to people as gifts for valentines or birthdays, along with a pie or cookies.
Only a few of her poems were published in her lifetime. She sent four of them to a critic, Mr. Higginson, asking for his help. When he sent suggestions for changing her poems, she replied in a letter, “Thank you for the surgery; it was not so painful as I supposed. I bring you others, as you ask” (Higginson).
After her death, friends and relatives found bundles of her poems, which they edited and “corrected” and had published in installments. In 1955, Thomas H. Johnson finally published a collection of her poems that had not been “corrected.” These are the versions we read today.
Here are two versions of one stanza of one of her poems. The first is unedited; the second has been “corrected.” We passed the School, where Children strove At recess—in the Ring— We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain— We passed the Setting Sun— We passed the school where children played Their lessons scarcely done; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun. See the differences? How does the poem change?
Why was she a poet? Many people have commented that there are no great woman artists. Would Emily Dickinson have become such a renowned poet if she had married and had children? What evidence is there in her poetry that she had a rich emotional life in spite of the fact that she rarely left home?
What sort of poet was she? Dickinson is known for using poetry as private observation. Her poems are carefully crafted in rhyme and meter. What autobiographical references do you find in the following poems?
Heart! We will forget him! You and I—tonight! You may forget the warmth he gave— I will forget the light! When you have done, pray tell me That I many straight begin! Haste! Lest while you’re lagging I remember him! This shows a conflict between her mind and her heart. What controls you, your mind or your heart? Is she referring to unrequited love (love that is not returned) or love that is impossible because of the circumstances?
The Soul selects her own Society— Then—shuts the Door— To her divine Majority*— Present no more— Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing— At her low Gate— Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling Upon her Mat— (continued on next slide) *Majority can mean reaching 21 or the greater part of something.
I’ve known her—from an ample nation— Choose One— Then—close the Valves of her attention— Like Stone— Do we make choices with our minds (thoughts) or our souls (feelings)? Does this describe her in any way? How would you punctuate this poem? What examples does this poem contain of slant rhyme?
Apparently with no surprise To any happy Flower The Frost beheads it at its play— In accidental power— The blonde Assassin passes on— The Sun proceeds unmoved To measure off another Day For an Approving God. What is unusual about her capitalization? Why does she do it? What is disturbing about this poem?
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant— Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind— What is she saying? Is she right? How could this lesson apply to her own life as well as to her poetry?
Another Poet Writes about Dickinson: We think of her hidden in a white dress among the folded linens and sachets of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight sending jellies and notes with no address to all the wondering Amherst neighbors. Eccentric as New England weather the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle, blew two half-imagined lovers off. Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity of vision, the serious mischief of language, the economy of pain. --Linda Pastan (Elements of Literature 371)
Sources of Images Photograph of Emily Dickinson [On-line image] available http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/images/authors/e mily.jpg. Painting of Young Emily [On-line image] available http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~emilypg/1830.html.