Interior Chambers: the Emily Dickinson Homestead

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In a 1998 article, Diana Fuss discusses Emily Dickinson and her work in regards to neurosis. Through extensive research Fuss asserts that Dickinson suffered a form of agoraphobia that kept her tethered to her home. Dickinson’s imagery in many of her works seem to indicate some sort of mental malady; be it depression, bi-polar disorder or agoraphobia one can only speculate because the diagnoses for such ailments did not come about until after Dickinson’s death.

The article was published in the autumn edition of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. It is a very long and thoroughly researched piece that asserts that Emily Dickinson pulled a tremendous amount of influence from the Dickinson family homestead and her desire to remain therein. The article focuses primarily on the homestead itself but offers a good deal of information into the psyche of the distraught poet. Fuss writes, “John Cody was the first to suggest, in a 1971 study of the Dickinson family romance, that Dickinson was a full-fledged psychotic, experiencing a complete mental breakdown during the crisis years of 1861-63.” (Fuss) Although the author makes it clear that post mortem psychological analysis is based on speculation, she continues by stating that “armed with the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Cody has expanded his initial diagnosis of the poet to cover a host of new disorders, including avoidant personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive episode, schizotypal personality disorder, and social phobia.” (Fuss)

Fuss includes many different ideas into the inner workings of Emily Dickinson’s mind including stating that “critics who romanticize Dickinson take a less judgmental approach, insisting that she freely chose her seclusion, opting to sequester herself in her father's house in order to assume the life of a professional poet.” (Fuss) However, the author asserts...
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