Emily Dickinson is one of the great visionary poets of nineteenth century America. In her lifetime, she composed more poems than most modern Americans will even read in their lifetimes. Dickinson is still praised today, and she continues to be taught in schools, read for pleasure, and studied for research and criticism. Since she stayed inside her house for most of her life, and many of her poems were not discovered until after her death, Dickinson was uninvolved in the publication process of her poetry. This means that every Dickinson poem in print today is just a guess—an assumption of what the author wanted on the page. As a result, Dickinson maintains an aura of mystery as a writer. However, this mystery is often overshadowed by a more prevalent notion of Dickinson as an eccentric recluse or a madwoman. Of course, it is difficult to give one label to Dickinson and expect that label to summarize her entire life. Certainly she was a complex woman who could not accurately be described with one sentence or phrase. Her poems are unique and quite interestingly composed—just looking at them on the page is pleasurable—and it may very well prove useful to examine the author when reading her poems. Understanding Dickinson may lead to a better interpretation of the poems, a better appreciation of her life’s work. What is not useful, however, is reading her poems while looking back at the one sentence summary of Dickinson’s life.
The notion of the author has often been disputed when it comes to critical literary studies. The argument centers around one basic question: Should the author be considered when looking at a text? There are numerous reasons given as to why the author is important or why the ...
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Keller, Lynn. “An Interview with Susan Howe.” Contemporary Literature 36.1 (1995): 1 34.
Oates, Joyce Carol, ed. The Essential Dickinson. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.
Winhusen, Steven. “Emily Dickinson and Schizotypy.” The Emily Dickinson Journal 13.1 (2004): 77-96.
Green, Fiona. “Plainly on the Other Side: Susan Howe’s Recovery.” Contemporary Literature 42.1 (2001): 78-101.
Ickstadt, Heinz. “Emily Dickinson’s Place in Literary History; or, the Public Function of a Private Poet.” The Emily Dickinson Journal 10.1 (2001): 55-68.
Ma, Ming-Qian. “Poetry as History Revised: Susan Howe’s ‘Scattering as Behavior Toward Risk.’” American Literary History 6.4 (1994): 716-37.
Miller, Cristanne. “Whose Dickinson?” American Literary History 12.1 (2000): 230-53.
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