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Emily Dickinson is famous for her poetry. More specifically, why is the show deeply committed to showing her as an unusual person? As sociologists, we study how spaces like museums understand and curate women for their audiences. In a recent study comparing depictions of historical figures whose sexualities are unclear—either because the historical record is fuzzy or has been altered, or because of anachronistic labels—we argue that cultural institutions depict certain women as unusual for a specific, worrisome reason: to navigate uncertainty about their sexual identities or practices. Specifically, in studying how museums commemorate Emily Dickinson and Jane Addams—the famed social organizer and reformer of turn-of-the-century Chicago—our research, conducted in andfound that museums presented both as unusual women.

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Rather than an intimidating and unsurpassable literary figure, Shakespeare was as much as a teacher, a mentor, as Higginson or Susan —her sister-in-law and friend— were to the poet. This article also tries to show how Dickinson appropriated elements of Shakespearean theatricality in her poetic work.

As Lawrence W. Amherst was no exception, despite the ambiguous relationship of New England writers like Emerson with Shakespeare 1 and the puritan reserve towards the theatrical world. For a nineteenth-century woman born and raised in New England by a rather strict and stern father, Emily Dickinson was surprisingly well acquainted with Shakespeare and his works.

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Given the extensive quotations of Shakespeare in her correspondence and poems, it is obvious that Dickinson had had access to the full texts, and not to simplified or censored versions of Shakespeare, as was often the case for young ladies in her time 2. In that sense, Dickinson was perfectly aware of the ongoing debates. Shakespeare was the absolute and unsurpassable model, as she expressed most famously in a letter to the editor of the Springfield Republican, Franklin B.

We will argue that Dickinson created her literary myth along the lines of the Shakespearean myth. He lacked university education; he wrote in the popular form of the drama, rather than the most prestigious form of the epic; and he broke many of the rules of dramatic construction favored by literary critics. Novy In her second letter to him, Emily Dickinson — then aged 31 — represents herself as a strange and solitary girl in need of guidance:. You ask of my Companions Hills — Sir — and the Sundown — and a Dog — large as myself, that my father bought me — They are better than Beings — because they know — but do not tell — and the noise in the Pool, at Noon — excels my Piano.

I have a Brother and Sister — My Mother does not care for thought — and Father, too busy with his Briefs — to notice what we do — He buys me many Books — but begs me not to read them — because he fears they joggle the Mind. But I fear my story fatigues you — I would like to learn — Could you tell me how to grow — or is it unconveyed — like Melody — or Witchcraft? Since she was told very early in her correspondence with Higginson that her poems would not be published, and went into almost complete seclusion in the s, her letters soon became her only public interface, as well as the only means of circulation for her poems.

Indeed, according to Marianne Novy, women writers identified with Shakespeare in the process of constructing their own identity as writers because. Perhaps this image of creativity might be particularly congenial because of the flexibility of ego boundaries and ease of identification with others shared by many women in our culture.

Emily dickinson, “the greatest freak of them all”?

These traits, attributed by the psychiatrist Nancy Chodorow to the gendering of child-rearing patterns, provide a reason why women find it appealing to develop their creativity in part by identification with another writer, and might be especially likely to construct their image of the ideal writer as one who also has flexible ego boundaries and ease of identification.

Novy 5.

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In the correspondence of the young poet with her mentor, as well as in her early correspondence with her brother with whom she shared an intellectual, artistic — and some would say sentimental 16 — rivalryDickinson definitely crosses such boundaries. I must tell you about the character of Amherst. It is a lady whom the people call the Myth. She is a sister of Mr. Dickinson and seems to be the climax of all the family oddity. She has not been outside of her own house in fifteen years, except once to see a new church, when she crept out at night, and viewed it by moonlight.

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She writes finely, but no one ever sees her. Her sister, who was at Mrs. So interesting. Sewall This image corresponds to the criteria of the grotesque as established by Bakhtin, in the sense that it blends animal and human elements Bakhtin By the mid-nineteenth century the ideal of the unadorned private man had given way to the reality of the public confidence man, or painted woman, who concealed or transformed his or her private nature in the construction of a public identity.

Fretz Stop There! This impression is reinforced by the presence of quotation marks, which seem to literally cut out the words from the stanza and make them stand out.

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Loose-fitting trousers were common to the oriental and slave costumes, and contributed to shedding doubt on the gender of the actress If this instance of cross-dressing — this exotic male costume worn amid the series of traditional western female ones during the performance — is most likely to be read as a reference to a theatrical practice of the time, the overall conception of gender as a role also alludes to the practice of cross-dressing as it was featured on the Elizabethan stage.

Which is Sebastian? I am the man. Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness Wherein the pregnant enemy does much. Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we, For such as we are made of, such we be.

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As I am woman now, alas the day! Twelfth NightII, 2, The dramatic monologue would certainly appear to be a useful form for […] women poets given the traditional gendering of the speaking subject as male and the tendency to associate women writers with the personal and self-representational. Byron For Dickinson, this distancing of the self is not so much the expression of Victorian modesty, as it is an attempt to encrypt 26 the self — in every meaning of the term — and to make it as elusive as possible.

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This seems particularly true for the poems that were sent with a letter: the intimate quality of the correspondence places the poem in a private setting, and apparently endows it with a highly personal dimension. Dickinson frequently read letters among her circle of female friends, and she remained the chief reader of newspapers, poems, books, and letters in her family. Her cousins […] attested to having heard her read her poems aloud.

This accomplished reader would have expected her own readers, who shared her education in rhetoric and declamation, to perform her poems and letters aloud. Finnerty In traditional conceptions of the lyric mode, there is no direct interaction with the reader, as Jonathan Culler explains:.

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The lyric poet normally pretends to be talking to himself or to someone else: a spirit of nature, a Muse, a personal friend, a lover, a god, a personified abstraction, or a natural object. Culler Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?

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Its echo in the forge is made stronger by the absence of a physical shell that would contain it; it is as if the constitution of the self was only possible through the resonance of the sound waves against the bodies and objects present in the forge, and through the echo their only physical trace — the poem — will find in its reader. Like the soul that is being un modeled on the anvil, the performance remains liminal, oscillating between the lyrical and the theatrical; a prologue, a development with multiple transformations, and a dramatic exit unfold within the small framework of the poem.

To return to the opening interrogation, the problem here is not overhearing the lyrical voice, but connecting with the voice that utters the apostrophe.

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This exploration of the voice of a controversial 33albeit canonical, author allowed Emily Dickinson to shape her own unique and modern voice, and also triggers interrogations towards the literary self which in many respects prefigure modernist interrogations about identity The Shakespearean conception of a protean self, often breaking out of fixed genderis thus paving the way for the very modern construction of an impersonal self, enacting impersonality through successive fragmentations of the self and an escape from boundaries of selfhood more generally. The Poems of Emily Dickinson.

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Thomas H. Johnson, 3 volumes. The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Johnson and Theodora Ward. How to Do Things with Words.

Emily dickinson, “the greatest freak of them all”?

Paris : Gallimard, Paris : La revue Fontaine, London: Methuen, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Victorian Women Poets.

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Cambridge: D. Brewer, Les jeux et les hommes : le masque et le vertige. Chicago: Chicago University Press, London: Mac Millan, Figures du sujet lyrique. Paris : PUF, ,

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