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EmilyDickinson 1830-1886. Biographical Facts  Birth: December 10, 1830  Place of Birth: Amherst, Massachusetts  Death: May 15, 1886 at the age of 56.

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Presentation on theme: "EmilyDickinson 1830-1886. Biographical Facts  Birth: December 10, 1830  Place of Birth: Amherst, Massachusetts  Death: May 15, 1886 at the age of 56."— Presentation transcript:

1 EmilyDickinson 1830-1886

2 Biographical Facts  Birth: December 10, 1830  Place of Birth: Amherst, Massachusetts  Death: May 15, 1886 at the age of 56 of Bright’s Disease, which infects the kidneys. Her disease may have contributed to her seclusion of the outside world.  The poet was born in, and died in, a house called the Homestead, built by her grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson in 1813

3 The only known photograph of Emily Dickinson was taken when she was a teenager. Emily did NOT like having her photo taken and flatly declined her father’s incessant requests to be photographed later in her life.


5 Her Family  Born to: Emily Norcross and Edward Dickinson  Had Two siblings: Austin and Lavinia  Most of the family belonged to the Congregational Church, though Emily herself never became a member  Both Edward and Austin were college graduates, leaders in the community and of Amherst College.


7  Edward Dickinson was a Whig (later a Republican) representative to state and national legislatures.  Emily had a strong secondary education and a year of college at South Hadley Female Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College).


9 The Myth  The notion that Dickinson was extremely reclusive is a popular one, but it is at best a partial truth. Dickinson’s first editors molded their descriptions of her and her work to conform to 19th-century stereotypes of women writers and to downplay qualities that did not match the conventional conception.  Although she never married and certainly became more selective over the years about the company she kept, Dickinson was far more sociable than most descriptions would have us believe.


11 Favorites and Style of Work  Dickinson enjoyed the King James Version of the Bible, as well as authors such as English writers William Shakespeare, John Milton, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and Thomas Carlyle.  Dickinson’s early style shows the strong influence of Barrett Browning, Scottish poet Robert Browning, and English poets John Keats and George Herbert.

12 Greatest Influence  There is a vital role of Dickinson’s sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, in her writing.  For more than 35 years the two women lived next door to each other, sharing passions for literature, music, cooking, and gardening.  Emily sent Susan more than 400 poems and letter- poems, twice as many as she sent to any other correspondent.  Susan also is the only person at whose behest Dickinson actually changed a poem; in response to Susan’s criticism.

13 Structure  Dickinson often used variations of meters common in hymn writing, especially iambic tetrameter eight syllables per line, with every second syllable being stressed  She frequently employed off-rhymes. Examples of off-rhymes include ocean with noon and seam with swim in the lines “Than Oars divide the Ocean, / Too silver for a seam — / Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon / Leap, plashless as they swim” from the poem “A Bird came down the Walk.”

14 Structure Continued…  Dickinson used common language in startling ways, a strategy called defamiliarization. This technique would, as she put it, “distill amazing sense / From ordinary Meanings” and from “familiar species.” Her poem “A Bird came down the Walk” also illustrates her use of defamiliarization: ○ “A Bird came down the Walk— /...drank a Dew /...stirred his Velvet Head” and then “unrolled his feathers / And rowed him softer home” while “Butterflies” leap “off Banks of Noon.”

15 Self Publication  Although few of Dickinson’s poems were formally published during her lifetime, she herself “published” by sending out at least one-third of her poems in the more than 1,000 letters she wrote to at least 100 different correspondents.

16 Publication  Dickinson’s method of binding about 800 of her poems into 40 manuscript books and distributing several hundreds of them in letters is now widely recognized as her particular form of self-publication.  Editions of Dickinson’s writings include: The Poems of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes, 1955), The Letters of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes, 1958), The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (2 volumes, 1981).

17 Milestones  1840s Attended Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary  1850s Began writing poetry voluminously, organizing her work into small booklets  1862 Sent four poems to American writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson for his opinion; he advised her not to publish them.

18 Milestones Continued…  1886 After Dickinson's death, her sister Lavinia discovered her poems and gave them to Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd for publication.  1890 Editors Higginson and Todd published about 115 of Dickinson's poems in Poems of Emily Dickinson.  1955 The first complete collection of Dickinson's poems appeared in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson.

19 Did You Know….?  Of the 1,775 poems Dickinson wrote, only 7 were published during her lifetime. In newspapers, Civil War journals, and a poetry anthology.  Dickinson rarely left Amherst, and in her later years she rarely left her family home. With the exception of a trip to Washington, D.C., in the late 1850s and a few trips to Boston for eye treatments in the early 1860s, Dickinson remained in Amherst, living in the same house on Main Street from 1855 until her death.

20 Did You Know…?  American writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a lifelong mentor to Dickinson, despite the fact that he initially discouraged her from publishing her work.  While Dickinson is often characterized as reclusive and somewhat eccentric, she is known to have maintained close relationships with family and friends.


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