Presentation on theme: "Emily Dickinson ‘The nun of Amherst’. Early life Born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, (MA) – Calvinist settlement 160km west of Boston. Prominent."— Presentation transcript:
Early life Born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, (MA) – Calvinist settlement 160km west of Boston. Prominent & financially secure family Father = representative of the Massachusetts Legislature. “he buys me many books, but begs me not to read them – because he fears they joggle the mind” Mother, Emily Norcross = “my mother does not care for thought” but received an education superior to most contemporary women Close relationship with Austin & Lavinia (never married and cared for Emily) Educated at Amherst Academy: popular “was always surrounded by a group of girls at recess, to hear strange and intensively funny stories invented on the spot” At 17, began college at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary; she became ill the spring of her first year and did not return. Develops passion for natural sciences to rival her love of literature. Students encouraged to declare faith openly and publicaly, ED unable to do so
Recluse: ‘the myth’ or ‘the nun of Amherst’ Last 25 years of life dressed in white, living in self-imposed isolation. Agoraphobic? Pose?Escape women’s role to write? Reluctant to leave the family home: went as far as the hedge to see the new church; attended father’s funeral by opening window; doctor diagnosed her from behind a screen Eye condition prevents reading. “eight months in Siberia”. For here it was “a woe, the only one that ever made me tremble. It was a shutting out of all of the dearest ones of home, the strongest friends of the soul – books.” Prolific outpouring of correspondence: including editor Higginson – whom encouraged her not to publish 7 poems published during her lifetime - 1886 succumbs to Bright’s Disease (Kidney disease), Poetry found fascicles (6 sheets of paper sewed together)1890 first collection of her poetry published 1955 when complete works in original condition were published, currently at 1775.
Defying convention The two major historical events that occurred during her lifetime were the American Civil War and development of the national railroad, neither of which feature in her poetry In her poetry is a rejection of 19 th century conventions and the emergence of a poetic style readily identifiable with late 20 th century. Average length of poetry of the time was 110 lines, Dickinson’s only 14. Others wrote didactic poetry, elevated in tone, Dickinson wrote of feelings and experiences using simple hymn-like rhythms (Hengel, 2005) Use of innovative punctuation, dashes of varying length, irregular capitalisation has established her as an influential ‘modern’ poet.
Puritan Heritage Puritanism began as a C16 th movement within English Protestantism to purify religion of all Roman Catholic forms & influences. Brought to New England in the C17 th Puritans = man was made a pure being, in his creator’s image, but fell and was corrupted through his wilful turning away from God. Elect (ed) were predestined to salvation Puritan strong sense of sin and damnation led to strict pattern of life. Spirit of revivalism swept New England during youth Second Great Awakening, ED resisted, remained unconverted and ineligible for church membership. But, religion/bible & in particular Revelations is a major source for ED Word such as Salvation, Sacrament, Eden and Election are transformed in her hands
Literary traditions Romanticism 1789-1830, French Revolution English poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron Feeling and emotion over reason Investigation of the self & a new concern with nature Transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) USA movement belief that God was immanent (existing and acting) in nature and man, That the soul was present in all things That the physical senses needed to be transcended through the role of intuition For Dickinson nature was often antagonistic, rarely as benign as the R and T believed The human and natural worlds for ED are totally separate, no interaction between the two
C19th American Women In opposition to ideas of self-reliance promoted by the Transcendentalists was the cult of self- abnegation (rejecting self for others) promoted for women women were responsible for maintaining moral and spiritual values and for providing a haven from the strife of the outside world Women’s virtues included: piety, submissiveness (this particularly frustrated ED), propriety and domesticity
style Lyric poetry Unique poet so difficult to place her in a single literary tradition Poetic form tends to be four-line stanzas, ABCB rhyme schemes, alternating between tetrameter and trimeter derives from Psalms and Protestant but appropriates (makes it for own) the form with long rhythmic dash Capitalisation: German? Publishing? Dash: emphasis, replacement of a comma, colon or full stop, abrupt shift in thought; fluid and suggest: Uncertainty?, hesitation? (so far); pace of poem? Word class functions: adjectives and verbs are used as nouns “we talk in careless-and in loss” uses ‘be’ instead of ‘is’ or ‘as’
Responses to Dickinson’s poetry “in cognitive originality she surpasses any Western poet except for Shakespeare and Blake” (Harold Bloom, 2002) “it would he hard to find another poet in the history of the English language with so little interest in social or political events’ (Northrup Frye)
What’s the Difference? BECAUSE I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality. We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility. We passed the school where children played, Their lessons scarcely done; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun. Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality. We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility. We passed the school, where children strove At recess, in the ring; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun. An excerpt of poem 712, or “Because I could not stop for Death, called “The Chariot” by Higginson and Todd. On the left is the edited version; on the right, the original. Note the major changes in lines 9 and 10.