Dickinson and the Romantic Imagination

Dickinson and the Romantic Imagination

Joanne Feit Diehl
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Dickinson and the Romantic Imagination
    Book Description:

    Evaluating Emily Dickinson's poetry within the context of Romanticism, Joanne Diehl demonstrates how the poet both manifests and boldly subverts this literary tradition. One of the most important reasons for the poet's divergence from it, Professor Diehl argues, is a powerful sense of herself as a woman, which also creates a feeling of estrangement from the company of major male Romantic precursors.

    Originally published in 1982.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5379-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    This book attempts a reevaluation of Emily Dickinson’s poetry based upon an understanding of her relationship to the major Romantic tradition My purpose here is not only to present a reinterpretation of Dickinson’s poems, but to suggest that essential to the current reappraisal of her work is an awareness of what Dickinson shares with and how she departs from the Anglo-American Romantic tradition The origins of this divergence are complex, but among the most important reasons is, assuredly, the fact of gender, the fact that Dickinson is a woman poet My opening chapter, therefore, considers the implications for literary theory...

  5. I “Come Slowly—Eden”: The Woman Poet and Her Muse
    (pp. 13-33)

    In his recent journeys along the “hidden roads that go from poem to poem,” Harold Bloom explores the dilemma of a poet wrestling with his precursors.² Bloom has turned to the rhetorical systems of Vico, Nietzsche, Freud, and the Kabbalah to illuminate his own vision. His use of these systems assumes the poet to be male, for the tropes these models offer convey a specific sexual identity. The oedipal struggle, the son's war with the father, the desire for and resentment of the seductive female, must echo throughout these philosophies of origins.³ Although Bloom keeps alluding to the sexual aspects...

  6. II Wordsworthian Nature and the Life Within
    (pp. 34-67)

    Dickinson’s primary confrontation is, to borrow Emerson’s language, between the Me and the Not Me Consequently, although she shares with the naturalizing Romantics, preeminently Wordsworth, an abiding concern with the relationship between self and world, the power of her poems comes, not from any perceived reciprocity, but rather from the struggle she describes between two competing forces the individual consciousness and all that is external to it Awareness of how Dickinson distinguishes her relationship to nature from Wordsworth’s reciprocal vision deepens our understanding of her poems’ origins as well as their subversive strength

    Crucial to Wordsworth’s faith in nature is...

  7. III Keats, Dickinson, and the Poet’s Romance
    (pp. 68-121)

    Poetic autonomy is not bestowed freely upon a poet but must be won by the skills of the imagination Dickinson’s quest for independence, as I have been suggesting, diverges in crucial ways from the Romantics’ relationship of poet and muse. Her quest is not, however, so much a rejection of their vision of the heroic poet as it is a reassessment of the relationship of poet to muse based upon the fact that a woman is now at the center of the creative endeavor In her vision of the analogue between the origins of creativity and the paradigms of romantic...

  8. IV Word and World in Shelley and Dickinson
    (pp. 122-160)

    Dickinson redefines nature according to her priorities The extent to which the exclusive self shapes images around its singular demands informs her distinctive use of language Although she cannot completely dissolve the relation between word and world, Dickinson does test the limits to which such a process may go When the ties between nature and the imagination are severed, natural images necessarily achieve a peculiar status, for they no longer depend upon external reality as their source, but rather adhere increasingly to the life within the imagination.¹ Shelley, whose own vision of the ontological priority of the imagination—the Intellectual...

  9. V Emerson, Dickinson, and the Abyss
    (pp. 161-182)

    Arachne, maiden of legendary audacity, claimed she could weave more splendidly than the goddess Minerva herself; the challenge ended in self-inflicted death and metamorphosis into a spider—the cunning revenge of the Divine weaver. Dickinson betrays a similar boldness, placing her poems against the most powerful voices for her generation—the poets of Romanticism. Like the Romantics, she writes quest poems, for they seek to complete the voyage, to prove the strength of the imagination against the stubbornness of life, the repression of an antithetical nature, and that “hidden mystery,” the final territory of death. The form of the poems...

  10. VI Afterword: On the Origins of Difference
    (pp. 183-186)

    As one reads Dickinson through and against Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Emerson, the origins of her dissent take on new meaning. Although she shares with them a faith in the sovereignty of the imagination and a belief in its powers, her skepticism—a distrust of nature and insistence upon the primacy of the mind—extends and intensifies one side of a dialectic already shaping Romantic thought. In response to what Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Emerson recognize as the potentially disintegrative danger of a poetics that relies too heavily upon the single imagination, each finds ways of acknowledging the world which...

  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 187-196)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 197-202)
    (pp. 203-205)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)