Emily Dickinson Themes in Poetry

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Emily Dickinsons' poetry has been insanely popular since its original publications after her death in May of 1886, at the age of 55. She was originally published in 1890 by some of her acquaintances, who heavily edited and altered her work. Her poems were published in their unedited and original forms in 1955 and was claimed, after initial criticism, in the 20th century to be one of the great American poets and also an archetypical example of a cryptic, tortured artist. (Ramey, 173) Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. (DiYanni, 909) Much of her life attributed and affected how her poetry was written and edited by herself. Four major parts of her life, as I see, affected her culture and her writing. Emily Dickinson's isolation, her spirituality, her fascination with death, and her seemingly unrequited love were all factors to her poems and can be seen as themes throughout her poetry. Emily Dickinson's isolation began approximately after she had returned from Mount Holyoke College, leaving Massachusetts only once, she spent the last fifteen years of her life never leaving her fathers house. (Diyanni, 909) Her isolation has been theorized to be due to mental instability,  illness, or of conscious choice. Mental instability such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (Ramey, 173)  have been linked to and increased creativity. McDermott theorized that Dickinson had a panic disorder which grew into agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety onset in situations where the environment is perceived by the sufferer as difficult to escape (DSM-IV), which was supported by symptoms she gave herself in letters such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fear in public, and other phobic behavior in crowds or public spaces which are all criteria in the fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders otherwise known as DSM-IV for agoraphobia.(Ramey, 175) It is also theorized through her work that she went through a 4 year period of SAD or seasonal affective disorder, which is seasonal depression that mostly appears during the winter. These years show an increased productivity during the summer and spring in comparison to autumn and winter and during the winter months her thoughts and poems were drawn to death. (Ramey, 176) Another 4 year period shows a possible diagnosis of Bipolar II and hypomania. (Ramey, 175)  Bipolar II is characterized by major depression and hypomania, which is a less severe stage of mania that is characterized by persistat euphoria or irritable moods with a increased productivity or creativity and usually is characterized by hypersexuality as well. (Ramey, 173) Dickinson's style went through a change which has been attributed to the hypomania as her metaphors changed and expanded and “created and experience that demanded a new kind of reading”. (Ramey, 176) Emily Dickinson's isolation from the world has also been theorized to be due to her illness (Norbert) or depression over her fathers death (Habegger, 562) and her mothers stroke and partial paralysis due to the stroke which happened a year after her fathers death. (Habegger, 569) Emily's mothers death later also seemed to strike her as terribly astonishing and depressing. (Alexanderson, 156) Another theory on her isolation is that during the Protestant and Calvinist movements during her childhood and college years, respectively, embodied certain ideals and values she did not agree with and she “resisted being coerced into beliefs she did not hold” (Mazzaro, 174) which lead many to think that her nonconformist views within society led her to lead a life of solitude and reclusiveness. Through these theories of the reasons for her isolated life we can see that her works were affected by her culture and environment. Which ever of these that are proven right whether it be through mental instability, illness and later depression because of deaths, or choice her poems were affected by her...
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