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Emily Dickinson

By waguramike Apr 30, 2012 1566 Words
Mike ******
AP Language
30 March 2012
The Maverick: Emily Dickinson
According to psychoanalytic literary criticism, an individual’s personal life, general view of the world, and personal experience, such as past life tragedies and traumas, largely affect the product of his or her self-expression in terms of literature, poetry, and other forms of expression (Brizee and Tompkins). Emily Dickinson, a Massachusetts native, is widely acclaimed for her nonconformist-use of authentic writing styles which include, but are not limited to, poetic style, themes, symbols, motifs, and figurative devices. As a result of her revolutionary poetry which was the complete opposite of the poetry of her time, she went against the grain of established social norms and standards that drew intense criticism and no recognition by fellow poets and by society. However, it is Dickinson’s poetry that forever changed the world’s approach to modern poetry.

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830. Amherst, a mere fifty miles away from Boston, was an influential town centered on education that had its own institution of higher education: Amherst College (Pettinger). Her father, Mr. Dickinson, worked diligently and was rarely home. Mr. Dickinson was a local politician and governmental official. Moreover, he had political connections with regional government officials and often invited politicians to his home. As the father-daughter relationship weakened and grew apart due to the constant presence of strangers in Dickinson’s home, she gradually grew up to loath her father’s political lifestyle and to feel disconnected and disjointed from her parents especially her father. It soon intensified as her limited social contact with others elevated to absurd degrees.

The childhood life that Emily Dickinson experienced was one of a kind and unique but troubling in its own right. From an early age, Dickinson’s family was frequented with illnesses and health misfortunes. Dickinson family’s religious background, Puritanism, was dominant in her social life, activities, and relations with her relatives and friends. Citing the family’s religion, her father often prevented Emily Dickinson from accessing and reading certain literary texts such as promiscuous novels and text authored by non-religious individuals. This strategy used by her father prevented her from accessing poetry and writing, literature in general, of other poets and skilled writers of her period. However, her brother frequently smuggled volumes of books into their home, avoiding the father’s eagle eye, for Emily to use. Later in life, Dickinson became isolated from her community and was skeptical of her religious background, Puritanism, and society as a whole. Thus, her sardonic view of humanity and her obsession with personal life, while excluding the rather not significant part, social life, helped Emily Dickinson develop her revolutionary poetic style and distinct writing voice.

As shown by her early life, her teenage years, and the relationship that Dickinson had with her family and father, life history had a significant effect on her future profession both as a poet and a writer. During her late teenage years, Emily Dickinson befriended Benjamin Newton, a locally acclaimed writer and literary critic, who mentored Dickinson’s poetic writing(Pettinger).Through his mentorship and further research, she became familiar with and studied literary and poetic works of William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson which would later inspire her(Pettinger). Her poetry career was also inspired and motivated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was one of the few people who urged and encouraged Emily Dickinson to publish and make known her poetry. Higginson also motivated her to make her poetry and writing, at the time, revolutionary.

Past life events, and inspiration from distinguished figures, such as Benjamin Newton, would forever greatly influence Dickinson’s poetry. Her poetry, like of other poets, had a consistency that rendered originality and beauty to Dickinson’s works. In most of her poems, Emily Dickinson persistently used the themes of pain, grief, joy, love, nature, and art. Dickinson was self-centered and thus wrote on topics that she knew or which intrigued her. Her themes involved imagery from religion, nature, society, education, art, and everyday life. Dickinson also used a single speaker in her poems who pontificated the emotions and thoughts present in the poems. For instance, in the poem “I’ll tell you how the sun rose-a ribbon at a time”, Dickinson tries to uncover nature’s mysteries by exploring the rising and setting sun(Giorgiana).

Emily Dickinson took Higginson’s advice of making revolutionary her poetry, but also imitated certain poetic elements of other poets of her time period. Dickinson is famously known for her revolutionary poetic writing style. She also constantly uses a uniform tone, which is a motif since she uses the same tone in multiple poems that is reflective of her personal view of society, her opinions of religion-specifically the Puritan religion-, and her general perspective of life and everything around her. For instance, her themes range from nature to religion such as, transcendentalism, morbidity, and religion. Her poetry is rich with symbols, motifs and recurring themes, and also an authentic writing style. In the poem, “I’m nobody, who are you”, Dickinson demonizes society and social interaction by describing the nature of a frog in a bog that yearns for publicity or acknowledgement of existence by croaking. Here, she is glorifying the individual self by implying that society should not define who we are. Rather, our self worth is more important than social appeal (Giorgianna). Dickinson consistent use of themes is effective in her mocking of society. She also repetitively employs the use of unconventional broken rhyming meter, imagery, dashes, metaphors, and random capitalizations. Idiosyncratic vocabulary, in her poetry, creates a body of work that is personalized by her style. In her poetry, Dickinson oftentimes avoids the use of pentamenter and rather opts for trimeter, tetrameter, and dimeter.

Emily Dickinson, by age thirty-five, had created about one thousand and a hundred poems. Of these poems, around eight hundred were written in fascicles, small handcrafted booklets, but kept private. However, a few of her poems were shared among Dickinson’s close relatives and confidants. After persuasion from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Dickinson eventually published a small portion of her poems despite having some of the poems published anonymously without the author’s consent. Dickinson’s published poems, however were not as original as they had been during her lifetime since different publishers, who had worked independently, edited, omitted, and rearranged the poetic mechanisms in her poems. These poems were also published separately in many volumes and often under different titles. Dickinson’s poetry had common similarities as well as differences when compared to other poets during the Romantic Era. Walt Whitman wrote poetry that clearly showed the commonalities and differences between his poetry and Dickinson’s poetry. Dickinson used slant and regular rhyme while Whitman mainly focused on free verse. Content-wise and length-wise, Dickinson’s poems are short and precise, while Whitman’s poems are lengthy and complex. Also, Dickinson’s poetic structure and syntax is different as she radically used punctuation, odd grammar, and simple language. This distinguished her from other poets. Whitman uses biblical allusions in his poetry; however, Dickinson is skeptical of religion and commitment to other social institutions. In spite of their myriad of differences, both Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman shared commonalities in their poetry. Both Dickinson and Whitman were Romantic Era poets during the twentieth century. Their themes of death, immortality and motifs of religion, class, and the perception of racial issues prevalent in America often times interconnected. Some of their poems also portray the fact that sexual longing and heterosexuality (Giorgiana). Both Dickinson and Whitman were innovators of poetry who inspired future poets and modern literature in general. During her time, Dickinson’s poetry opposed and clearly juxtaposed the poems and generally the poetic styles and mentality evidently used by her fellow poets. This also due to the fact that she yearned for distinction but recoiled back in reclusion (Harris). During this time, poets would steer away from religious conflicts and controversies by sticking to the norm. Social conflicts, moreover, were never included or illustrated by poems. Emily Dickinson changed this by ushering in a different way of viewing and analyzing society and other human institutions. On her part, human society was not as ornately enlightened as it seemed, but a hodgepodge of complications. Due to her controversial writing, her poems were heavily criticized and banned from open viewing. As a result, many of her poems have never been published except for a few hundred. The influence her poetry had on later poetry and literature, however, is significant in shaping society and current poetry. Emily Dickinson is therefore considered to be a key founder of modern American poetry.

Works Cited
Brizee, Allen, and J. Case Tompkins. "Psychoanalytic Criticism (1930s-present)." Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab. Purdue U., 2010. Web. 22 Mar 2012. Dickinson, Emily. "I'll tell you how the sun rose." Bartleby. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar 2012. "Dickinson Emily." The Literature Network. Jalic Inc., 2006. Web. 23 Mar 2012. Giorgiana L.."Emily Dickinson." eNotes. eNotes, Inc., 2010. Web. 23 Mar 2012. Harris, Julie. "Emily Dickinson Museum." Emily Dickinson. Trustees of Amherst College, 2009. Web. 23 Mar 2012. Long, Joanna Rudge. "Barbara Dana: A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson." The Horn Book Magazine 85.3 (2009): 294+. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.

Pettinger, T.. "Biography of Emily Dickinson." www.biographyonline.net. Biography Online, 2006. Web. 23 Mar 2012. Pettinger)

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