Trying To Think With Emily Dickinson

Trying To Think With Emily Dickinson

by Jed Deppman
     
 

This book presents Emily Dickinson as one of America's great thinkers and argues that she has even more to say to the twenty-first century than she did to the nineteenth. Jed Deppman weaves together many strands in Dickinson's intellectual culture -- philosophy, lexicography, religion, experimental science, the female Bildungsroman -- and shows how she developed a

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Overview

This book presents Emily Dickinson as one of America's great thinkers and argues that she has even more to say to the twenty-first century than she did to the nineteenth. Jed Deppman weaves together many strands in Dickinson's intellectual culture -- philosophy, lexicography, religion, experimental science, the female Bildungsroman -- and shows how she developed a lyricized, conversational hermeneutics uniquely suited to rethinking the authoritative discourses of her time.

Through Deppman's original analysis, readers come to see how Dickinson's mind and poetry were informed by two strong but opposing philosophical vocabularies: on the one hand, the Lockean materialism and Scottish Common Sense that dominated her schoolbooks in logic and mental philosophy -- Reid, Hedge, Watts, Stewart, Brown, and Upham -- and on the other, the neo-Kantian modes of apprehending the supersensible that circulated throughout German idealism and Transcendentalism.

Blending close readings with philosophical and historical approaches, Deppman affirms Dickinson's place in the history of ideas and brings her to the center of postmodern conversations initiated by Jean-François Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, and Gianni Vattimo. Trying her out in various postmodern roles -- the Nietzschean accomplished nihilist, the Nancian finite thinker, the Vattimian weak thinker, and the Rortian liberal ironist -- Deppman adds to the traditional expressive functions of her poetry a valuable, timely, and interpretable layer of philosophical inquiry. Dickinson, it turns out, is an ideal companion for anybody trying to think in the contemporary conditions that Vattimo characterizes as the "weakened experience of truth."

University of Massachusetts Press

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Editorial Reviews

Emily Dickinson Journal

Jed Deppman's catchily titled book takes Emily Dickinson seriously as a thinker.... This book is a welcome historical turn in Dickinson studies.

Advance Access

Deppman characterizes Dickinson as a controversial poet whose poems invite us to converse rather than simple to agree or disagree with them.... Deppman's view of Dickson's poems as philosophical conversation is a great model for her poetry and Deppman's philosophical conversations with Dickinson's poems provide the best model we have of precisely how the poems work and how we might best think about the genre of her poems.

The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin

This book is learned, original, meticulous, playful, and illuminating for all readers who say "What?" to Dickinson. How gratifying.

The Review of English Studies

Deppman's view of Dickinson's poems as philosophical conversation is a great model... His philosophical conversations with Dickinson's poems provide the best model we have of precisely how the poems work.

The Emily Dickinson Journal

In Deppman's account, Dickinson... adroitly steers between the Scylla of a materialistic Scottish Common Sense philosophy and the Charybdis of Transcendental idealisms based on Immanuel Kant

American Literary Scholarship

Deppman makes the case that Dickinson ought to be read as a central figure in the history of 19th-century American ideas, demonstrating how seamlessly her thought meshes with the influential postmodern theories...

Oxford Journal Review of English Studies
Deppman's view of Dickinson's poems as philosophical conversation is a great model for her poetry and Deppman's philosophical conversations with Dickinson's poems provide the best model we have of precisely how the poems work and how we might best think about the genre of her poems.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558496842
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
12/23/2008
Pages:
290
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Paul Crumbley

Deppman's book gives us a Dickinson who speaks powerfully to central philosophical questions of the twenty-first century while also positioning her in the historical context of her own time, thereby illuminating significant intellectual trends that link her age to ours.... Deppman's close readings of key poems are lively, engaging, and frequently humorous. One of the most impressive stylistic achievements of this book is Deppman's ability to interweave challenging philosophical debates with a focused analysis of Dickinson's poems. He smoothly and compellingly integrates materials from multiple genres, differing historical periods, and radically different verbal registers.

Meet the Author

Jed Deppman is Irvin E. Houck Associate Professor in the Humanities and director of comparative literature at Oberlin College. His work on this book received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Emily Dickinson International Society.

University of Massachusetts Press

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