Regarded as the most original woman poet ever by the literary critic Harold Bloom, Emily Dickinson has mesmerized generations of readers since she was ﬁrst published, posthumously, in 1890. During her lifetime, however, she did not publish her almost 1,800 poems and was largely unknown as a poet beyond a close circle of family and friends. One friend was the Atlantic Monthly writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson with whom she corresponded for over 20 years. In her ﬁrst letter to him, she asked: “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?”
In this course, which will serve as an introduction to Dickinson’s work and to the formal analysis of poetry, we will consider the various ways in which her verse is alive. Put differently, we will consider some of the most striking features of her poetics, the things that make her poems so original. These will include: her punctuation with dashes; her poems with dead speakers; her remarkable use of personiﬁcation and other ﬁgures; her poems about the wind; her manuscripts with word variants; her poems in which she deﬁnes and redeﬁnes concepts; and her metrical innovations.
Each class we will analyze closely a number of her poems assigned from our required text, Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them (edited by Cristanne Miller, Harvard University Press, 2016).