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Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). Two Heritages of Language §Public Speech--from father and grandfather §Her father, Edward Dickinson, served as a state representative,

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Presentation on theme: "Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). Two Heritages of Language §Public Speech--from father and grandfather §Her father, Edward Dickinson, served as a state representative,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

2 Two Heritages of Language §Public Speech--from father and grandfather §Her father, Edward Dickinson, served as a state representative, as a state senator, and in the national House of Representatives §He helped found Amherst College §Private Speech--from mother §Emily’s mother frequently responded with silence, demanding the other person to figure out what she wanted to hear §From her, Emily learned the power of withholding communication

3 Dickinson seldom left Amherst §Her one lengthy absence was a year at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary (1847-48), in South Hadley, ten long miles away, where she was intensely homesick for her “own DEAR HOME.” §Dickinson declared home to be holy, “the definition of God,” a place of “Infinite power.” §She admired Ralph Waldo Emerson and his ideas, but did not go next door to meet him when he stayed there during a lecture tour in 1857.

4 Religion played an important role in her life. §Dickinson was terrorized by old-fashioned sermons about damnation and by the frequency of death in that age of high infant and childhood mortality. §As her friends moved away and got married, she gradually became estranged from the religious beliefs of her community.

5 Slow Triumph Over Religious Fears §She became friends with Josiah Gilbert Holland, associate editor of the Springfield Republican, and his wife. §Their liberal theology encouraged her to struggle against the influence of sermons threatening damnation of souls like her own.

6 Importance of Books §Dickinson’s triumph over religious fears was intricately involved in her seeing herself as a poet and was aided by the lifelong course of reading on which she embarked when she returned home from Mt. Holyoke. §Her father wanted to limit her access to books, believing that they were dangerous to her soul.

7 Passionate Relationships §Letters and love poems have convinced biographers that Dickinson may have experienced a number of passionate relationships. l Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican l Reverend Charles Wadsworth--she met him in 1855, and he visited her in Amherst in 1860 and 1880 l Judge Otis Phillips Lord--twenty years older than she, a conservative Whig who had outlived his party

8 Literary Influences §She knew the poetry of Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell. §She identified with Hawthorne’s isolated, gnarled, idiosyncratic characters. §Emerson was an enduring favorite. §She loved Thoreau, recognizing a kindred spirit in the independent, nature-loving man who delighted in being the village crank of Concord.

9 Other Influences §The Bible §Dead and living British writers l Her knowledge of Shakespeare was minute and extremely personal. l Milton l Keats l She read the novels of Charles Dickins as they appeared. l Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson

10 Contemporary Female Favorites §Elizabeth Barrett Browning was immensely important as an example of a successful contemporary female poet. §The Bronte sisters §She read George Eliot’s novels and poems as they appeared and, after her death, eagerly awaited the biography. §She also saw the French George Sand as another literary queen.

11 Dickinson’s Style Short Meter ( found poetic freedom within the confines of this meter. A narrow Fellow in the Grass Occasionally rides-- You may have met him--did you not His notice sudden is--

12 Slant Rhyme Within the structure form of short meter, she multiplied aural possibilities by substituting consonance and assonance for rhyme.... Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash Upbraiding in the Sun When stopping to secure it It wrinkled and was gone-- Several of Nature’s People I know, and they know me-- I feel for them a transport Of cordiality--

13 Enjambment Her ideas often run across the end of the conventional stopping place of a line or stanza break, forcing her readers to learn where to pause to collect the sense before reading on. He glanced with rapid eyes That hurried all around-- They looked like frightened Beads, I thought-- He stirred his Velvet Head Like one in danger, Cautious,(itals mine; modifies what?) I offered him a Crumb And he unrolled his feathers And rowed him softer home--

14 Dashes The entire Dickinson family used dashes in their correspondence. Grand go the Years--in the Crescent--above them-- Worlds scoop their Arcs-- And Firmaments--row-- Diadems--drop--and Doges--surrender-- Soundless as dots--on a Disc of snow--

15 Capital Letters Dickinson capitalizes most common nouns. Safe in their Alabaster Chambers-- Untouched by Morning-- And untouched by Noon-- Lie the members of the Resurrection-- Rafter of Satin--and Roof of Stone!

16 Themes Dickinson often brought dazzling originality to the tritest topic. §Life §Love, including Marriage and the position of women in society. §Nature--she was well-schooled in contemporary science. §Time and Eternity §Death and Mourning §Religion and Faith §Isolation and Depression §Poetry and Language

17 Complex, Enigmatic Poems §Dickinson’s poems often have a sense of playful promise, challenging the reader to hit on the right interpretation. §She was seldom a moralist; she did not feel compelled to construct unified models. She sports with those who want to carry away handy capsules from their reading. §Her personas are often in boundary situations. One critic says that she “domesticates irreconcilable existential questions.”

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