Poe, Edgar Allan. "William Wilson." Selected Poetry and Prose of Poe. Ed. T. O. Mabbott. New York: Modern Library, 1951.
Much has been said about Emily Dickinson’s mystifying poetry and private life, especially during the years 1860-63. Allegedly it was during these years that the poetess, at the most prolific phase of her career, withdrew from society, began to wear her “characteristic” white dress and suffered a series of psychotic episodes. Dickinson tended to “theatricalize” herself by speaking through a host of personae in her poems and by “fictionalizing” her inner life as a gothic romance (Gilbert 584). Believing that a poem is “the best words in the best order” (to quote S.T. Coleridge) and that all the poems stemming from a single consciousness bring to surface different aspects / manifestations of the same personal mythology, I will firstly disregard biographical details in my interpretation of Dickinson’s poems 378, 341 and 280 and secondly place them in a sort of “continuum” (starting with 378 and ending with 280) to show how they attempt to describe a “plunge” into the Unconscious and a lapse into madness (I refrain from using the term “journey,” for it implies a “telos,” a goal which, whether unattainable or not, is something non-existent in the poems in question). Faced with the problem of articulating and concretizing inner psychological states, Dickinson created a totally new poetic discourse which lacks a transcendental signified and thus can dramatize the three stages of a (narrated) mental collapse: existential despair, withdrawal from the world of the senses and “death” of consciousness.
“Emily Dickinson’s Life and Work.” Literature An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Eds. Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. 5th ed. Boston: Longman, 2012. 756-761. Print.
“Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.” was one of Emily Dickinson’s most famous quotes, showing much of her swaying from Romanticism to a more Realistic view, and changing the standards of writing along with it. Between 1858 and 1864 Emily Dickinson wrote over forty hand bound volumes of nearly 1800 poems, yet during her lifetime only a few were published. Perhaps this is why today we see Dickinson as a highly influential writer, unlike those during her time who did not see the potential. Emily Dickinson wrote most of her works towards the end of the romanticism era, but considered more of a realist, ahead of her time and one to shape the new movement. The main characteristic of Romanticism that Dickinson portrays in her writing emphases of the importance of nature to the Romantics, but she is known as a Realist because of her concern and fascination with death, and the harsh realities of life. Emily Dickinson’s upbringing and early education, along with living in reclusion with death all around her, greatly influenced on of the greatest female poets of all time.
Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts and she died on May 15, 1886 (Emily Dickinson 11). She was a distant person that secluded many people and devoted her life to looking after her parents. This is because she did not like the attention that her family’s fame brought. After the death of her parents, she isolated herself even more and communicated solely through poetry. Her passion for writing poetry was not discovered until after her death by her sister Lavinia (Emily Dickinson Selected Poems, 7). Her inspiration, Benjamin F. Newton gave her the ability to write nearly 1800 poems. He was one of her father’s lawyers that inspired her to start writing by introducing her to poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Wordsworth. Their writing influenced her and how she wrote greatly. The death of Newton made young Dickinson continue writing poetry, which had great effect afterwards (The European Graduate School 1).