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Emily Dickinson

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English La Quinta del Puente

on 26 February 2018

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Transcript of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10th, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Her father was one of the most important men in the city--lawyer, politician, and the treasurer of Amherst College, one of America’s oldest universities.
Closest friends:
older brother (Austin), younger sister (Lavinia), and her brother’s wife (Susan)
Neither she nor her sister ever married.
After graduating from Amherst Academy (middle school/high school), she attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (a kind of religious college for women), ten miles from her home.
She quit school and came home after less than a year because she was extremely homesick.
She never left her home again, except for a few overnight trips, because she felt that her home was a place of “infinite power.”
She had extremely close friendships with several people and seems to have fallen in love with two men and at least one woman.
Emily died in 1886, possibly of a kidney disorder.
Prior to her own death, she suffered through the death of her father (1874), mother (1882), nephew Gilbert (1883), and her best friend Helen (1885).
Biography
She had a large, beautiful flower garden which she worked in every day. Many of her poems are about birds, flowers, and bees.
Emily has been called a “recluse”, but this description may not be exactly correct. She loved children

and worked in her flower garden every day.
Style
Keeping in mind that she had a strong sense of humor will help you better understand the tone of her poetry.
Distinctive Stylistic Elements
She wrote about what she knew and what intrigued her.
Her poems are lyrics, defined as short poems with a single speaker (not necessarily the poet).
She had an innate ability to describe abstract concepts with concrete images. In a lot of her poetry, abstract ideas and material things are used to explain each other.
Reading Dickinson's Poetry
Poems
Emily Dickinson fearlessly explores ideas about truth, liberty, death, and eternity through the use of figurative language and imagery.
Much Madness is divinest Sense--
My life closed twice before its close--
The Soul selects her own Society--
I heard a Fly buzz--
when I died--
My Life had stood a Loaded Gun--
Success is counted sweetest
Because I could not stop for Death--
Due to her upbringing and background, Emily Dickinson's poetry has a style that is as unique and personal as her view of the world.
She used images from :
nature
religion
law
music
commerce
medicine
fashion
domestic activities
Universal themes:
the wonders of nature
the identify of the self
death and immortality
love
"When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse--it es not mean--me--but a supposed person."
Inventive Punctuation
Inverted Syntax
Irregular Capitalization
i.e. use of dashes
highlight important words and cause pauses in rhythm
words placed in an unusual order
create rhythm
emphasize words and connect concepts to each other
Figurative Language
Similes
Metaphors
Personification
Imagery
helps communicate abstract ideas by comparing them to more familiar, concrete things
comparison using "like" or "as"
close the Valves of her attention--
Like Stone--
comparison not using "like" or "as"
The Soul selects her own Society--
Then--shuts the Door--
human characteristics to inanimate objects
Because I could not stop for Death--
He kindly stopped for me--
appeals to the senses
sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste
Tips for reading her poems:
1. Stay open to linguistic surprise. She doesn't use titles, sometimes she uses unusual vocabulary, imperfect rhyme scheme, etc.
2. Read the poem again.
3. Don't think that the poem will only mean just one thing. Her poems often express movement between more than one idea or image.
4. Don't make the poem about her. Even though it uses "I", this does not mean that she is the narrator.
5. Look for recurring themes, images, and strategies.
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Background:
Emily lived in her family's home as an adult.
She liked to be alone to read and write.
Even though she withdrew from the outside world, she took amazing journeys with her poetry.
She wrote 1775 poems and explored subjects like love, death, and eternity.
This poem is about what it's like to face death, and immortality, or life after death.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
Reread lines 1-8 and underline an example of personification. What is the effect of comparing Death to a carriage driver?
Reread lines 17-20 ("We paused..."). What is the meaning of the metaphor of the House? What is this place, really? Why is it described as "A Swelling of the Ground"?
Background:
The speaker notes that people who've failed sometimes understand success better than those who've succeeded.
As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory
Lines 5-12 ("Not one...")are one long sentence with several instances of inverted syntax. Rewrite this sentence in your own words using standard word order.
Background:
After 1869, Dickinson never left her house and only wore white.
She withdrew from contact with people outside of her family little by little.
The speaker of this poem talks about how choosing your own path can put you at risk if you are misunderstood by others.
Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you’re straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -
Circle capitalized words that appear in places other than the beginnings of lines in this poem. What effect of emphasizing these words through irregular capitalization have?
Background:
The speaker considers how a painful parting can feel as if a death has occurred.
My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
Reread lines 7-8 ("Parting is..."). What does Dickinson mean with these two lines?
Background:
Dickinson chose an isolated life that would allow her time to read and write.
She only socialized with people she wanted to.
The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —
Circle the dashes that appear in lines 11-12 ("Then..."). How do the dashes help emphasize the action that is described in these lines?
I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -
I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -
Background:
Focuses tightly on the sights, sounds, and tensions at the moment of death.
Because it begins boldly and continues with quick shifts of attention, readers may not realize that they're hearing a voice from the dead.
Reread lines 12-16 ("There interposed..."). Describe what the speaker sees and hears in these lines.
What is the effect of this imagery?
Background:
Dickinson sometimes wrote about authority and power.
Here the speaker compares his/her life to something powerful--a gun--in the hands of something even more powerful--its owner.
My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -
In Dickinson's metaphor in line 1, circle the two things that are compared. What quality might these two things share?
And now We roam in Sovreign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through -
Vesuvius is a famous volcano. Something Vesuvian is like Vesuvius--erupting suddenly.

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master’s Head -
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I’m deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -
Sometimes she used humor and pathos to write about her subjects.
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