Emily Dickinson's Vision: Illness and Identity in Her Poetry

Emily Dickinson's Vision: Illness and Identity in Her Poetry

by James R. Guthrie
     
 

"A full, dramatic, and sympathetic picture. . . . It is both rare and refreshing to see a literary critic write not only with persuasive authority, but also with such style and felicity of phrase."--Barton L. St. Armand, Brown University

In this original contribution to Dickinson biography and criticism, James Guthrie demonstrates how the poet's optical

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"A full, dramatic, and sympathetic picture. . . . It is both rare and refreshing to see a literary critic write not only with persuasive authority, but also with such style and felicity of phrase."--Barton L. St. Armand, Brown University

In this original contribution to Dickinson biography and criticism, James Guthrie demonstrates how the poet's optical disease--strabismus, a deviation of the cornea--directly affected her subject matter, her poetic method, and indeed her sense of her own identity.
 Dickinson's illness compelled her to remain indoors with her eyes heavily bandaged for months at a time, especially during the summer.  Guthrie maintains that these extended periods of sensory deprivation caused her to seek solace in writing and to convert her poems into replacements for her injured eyes.  Many poems discuss her physical pain; many mention such topics as optics, astronomy, light, or the sun; some suggest that she blamed God for what had happened to her.  These poems permitted her, Guthrie says, to use her personal experience as a springboard for discussing philosophical and religious matters and led her, finally, to conceive a system of metapoetics in which she served as translator or mediator between God's will and human experience.
 Guthrie argues that reading the poems in an overtly biographical context deepens their complexity and profundity.  Dickinson emerges from this study as an accomplished artist and an eminently sane and stable woman whose patience and optimism were sorely tested by severe, chronic illness.

James R. Guthrie, associate professor of English at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, is the author of articles in The Midwest Quarterly, The Explicator, and The Emily Dickinson Journal.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813015491
Publisher:
University Press of Florida
Publication date:
02/28/1998
Edition description:
First
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.91(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.94(d)
Lexile:
1700L (what's this?)

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