Emily Dickinson

Overview

Cynthia Griffin Wolff’s brilliant literary biography of Emily Dickinson is the first to unravel the intricate relationship between her life and her poetry. It is a vivid portrait of the poet and her times as well as a fascinating interpretive study of the poems that will enable every reader to approach them with new understanding and delight.

The celebrated biographer of Edith Wharton is the first to unravel the intricate relationship between Emily Dickinson's life ...

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Overview

Cynthia Griffin Wolff’s brilliant literary biography of Emily Dickinson is the first to unravel the intricate relationship between her life and her poetry. It is a vivid portrait of the poet and her times as well as a fascinating interpretive study of the poems that will enable every reader to approach them with new understanding and delight.

The celebrated biographer of Edith Wharton is the first to unravel the intricate relationship between Emily Dickinson's life and her poetry, between the life of her mind and the voice of her poems. 23 photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One hundred years after Emily Dickinson's death, the Amherst poet's life and work are increasingly the subjects of scholarly study and imaginative interpretation. Wolff, professor of humanities at MIT, presents within the framework of a life not long and not outwardly eventful an acute, erudite analysis of the sources and voices of the remarkable, individual, cryptic and often breathtaking poetry. Dickinson is seen here not as a timid woman who withdrew from life, but as a strong person aware of her talent and of the power of language, who chose to spend her time and energy on the writing and perfecting of poetry. The major part of the book identifies and analyzes subjects and influences, among them: the recurrent waves of religious revival in the mid-19th century, which Dickinson alone among her family and close associates resisted; the close observation of nature, sometimes ironic, sometimes playful; the fear of blindness, with its threatened loss of the joy of reading; the reciprocated but unfulfilled love for Judge Otis Phillips Lord late in life; the struggle to grasp and deal with the fact of death that produced some of her greatest work. In transmitting the quality of Dickinson, Wolff enlarges on a comment by Archibald MacLeish, that the person reading her is ``not so much reading as being spoken to. . . . '' Among the poetic voices described are those of the child, the wife, the voice of ``No'' and the proleptic voice: ``I felt a Funeral, in my brain . . . . '' A striking piece of explication is ``Interlude: Context and Subject,'' in which the poet, in her attempt to perfect her art, appears as a Jacob-like figure wrestling with the Angel, even as an Ahab. This powerful book is rich in equally provocative analogies and insights. Photos. BOMC alternate. November 19
Library Journal
This is a dense, extended study of Dickinson's life and poetry, the first attempting this perilous joining since Thomas Johnson's Emily Dickinson 1955. Wolff, expanding on Tate ``New England Culture and Emily Dickinson,'' 1932, deflects the peril by positing that the passion in the poetry arises from Dickinson's lifelong wrestling with an abandoning, vengeful God. This single perspective illuminates poetry Christian in idea or imagery but convolutes when applied to nonfaith poems. Biographical revelations arise from the reconsideration of known data, yielding a complex portrait and some plausible conjectures in a context profuse with family, ancestry, and social history. The rich interweaving of times, life, mind, and letters makes this a formidable addition to the canon of enduring Dickinson studies. Domenica Paterno, Lehman Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201168099
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/21/1988
  • Series: Radcliffe Biography Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 676
  • Sales rank: 426,237
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Griffin Wolff holds the Class of 1922 Professorship of the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton and Samuel Richardson and the Eighteenth Century Puritan Character.

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