Dickinson's Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading

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Overview

Dickinson's Misery is our luxury. This rich and rewarding study uncovers intellectual value where no one thought to look for it before: in the envelopes, clippings, pictures, flowers, and dead insects that so often accompanied a Dickinson lyric. A lively, mischievous, and memorable book."--Diana Fuss, Princeton, author of The Sense of an Interior: Four Writers and the Rooms that Shaped Them and Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature, and Difference.

"Dickinson's Misery stunningly combines scrupulous historical and theoretical explorations of Dickinson's bizarre poetic practices, and in so doing it opens the most fundamental questions about what critics and readers since Dickinson have come to call the "lyric." Future writing on poetry in nineteenth-century America and on the nature of lyric and lyrical reading will need to address Jackson's searching arguments."--Jonathan Culler, Cornell University, author of On Deconstruction

"Who doubts that Emily Dickinson wrote lyric poems? Yet this turns out to be one of those truisms that dissolves in the face of simple attention. By showing how much we normalize the strange things that Dickinson wrote precisely by reading them as lyrics, Jackson has written a book that earns its subtitle: a theory of lyric reading. This is one of the most inventive and observant books yet written on Dickinson, but it is more than that: I know of no better study of the performative character of reading, nor of any book that does more to open our eyes to just how little we know about the range of genres and styles of reading in the past."--Michael Warner, Rutgers University

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Editorial Reviews

American Literature - Martha Nell Smith
Beautifully written, witty, incisive, learned, savvy, generous, and generative, Dickinson's Misery has no contemporary peer, synthesizing as it does knowledge of a vast range of relevant philosophy, poetic theory, and poetry as Jackson's inquiry opens up territories none other has thought to explore.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2006 Christian Gauss Award, Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards

Winner of the 2005 Prize for a First Book, Modern Language Association

"Beautifully written, witty, incisive, learned, savvy, generous, and generative, Dickinson's Misery has no contemporary peer, synthesizing as it does knowledge of a vast range of relevant philosophy, poetic theory, and poetry as Jackson's inquiry opens up territories none other has thought to explore."--Martha Nell Smith, American Literature

"Jackson seeks to engage with the reader in exploring various theories of the lyric, and to find a way into a range of lyric genres (songs, notes, letters, elegies, valentines, verse) in order to consider them as alternatives to a singular idea of the lyric. The book is beautifully illustrated with a range of Dickinson material which allows the reader to appreciate the images of her writing as an essential element in 'reading' the past."--The Year's Work in English Studies (2007)

American Literature
Beautifully written, witty, incisive, learned, savvy, generous, and generative, Dickinson's Misery has no contemporary peer, synthesizing as it does knowledge of a vast range of relevant philosophy, poetic theory, and poetry as Jackson's inquiry opens up territories none other has thought to explore.
— Martha Nell Smith
The Year's Work in English Studies
Jackson seeks to engage with the reader in exploring various theories of the lyric, and to find a way into a range of lyric genres (songs, notes, letters, elegies, valentines, verse) in order to consider them as alternatives to a singular idea of the lyric. The book is beautifully illustrated with a range of Dickinson material which allows the reader to appreciate the images of her writing as an essential element in 'reading' the past.
American Literature
Beautifully written, witty, incisive, learned, savvy, generous, and generative, Dickinson's Misery has no contemporary peer, synthesizing as it does knowledge of a vast range of relevant philosophy, poetic theory, and poetry as Jackson's inquiry opens up territories none other has thought to explore.
— Martha Nell Smith
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691119915
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/5/2005
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 367,558
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Jackson is Associate Professor of English at New York University. She publishes on various aspects of nineteenth-century American poetic culture, on historical poetics, and on lyric theory.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Abbreviations xvii
Beforehand 1
Chapter One: Dickinson Undone 16
Bird-tracks 16
"When what they sung for . . ." 26
Lyric Context 31
Hybrid Poems 38
Dickinson Unbound 45
The Archive 53
Chapter Two: Lyric Reading 68
"My Cricket" 68
Lyric Alienation 92
Lyric Theory 100
Against (Lyric) Theory 109
Chapter Three: Dickinson's Figure of Address 118
"The only poets" 118
Lyric Media 126
"The man who makes sheets of paper" 133
"You-there-I-here" 142
"The most pathetic thing I do" 158
Chapter Four: "Faith in Anatomy" 166
Achilles' Head 166
The Interpretant 179
"No Bird-yet rode in Ether--" 185
The Queen's Place 196
Chapter Five: Dickinson's Misery 204
"Misery, how fair" 204
"The Literature of Misery" 212
"This Chasm" 219
"And bore her safe away" 228
Conclusion 235
Notes 241
Selected Works Cited 275
Index 293
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