Dickinsonian Difference: The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

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).

  • Group Leader(s): MARTIN GREENUP
  • Days: Thursdays
  • Times: 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
  • Start Date: 10/3/2019
  • End Date: 10/24/2019
  • Sessions: 4
  • Exceptions: none
  • Venue: King's Chapel Parish House
  • Teaching Style: Seminar
  • Weekly Preparation: 2 hours
  • Biography:

    Martin Greenup is a fulltime instructor in the Harvard College Writing Program where he teaches a course in expository writing (“Humans, Nature, and the Environment”). He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Cambridge and an M.A. in American literature from Harvard. He is currently completing his Ph.D. dissertation, “The Aesthetics of Animation in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson.” Before joining the Writing Program, he taught literature extensively as a teaching fellow in the English department at Harvard. He grew up in Cumbria in the north of England and worked as a hill shepherd before going to college.

  • Address: 64 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108