English 166

Special Topics: Emily Dickinson


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2018 Shoptaw, John
TTh 11-12:30 229 Dwinelle

Book List

Dickinson, Emily: Selected Letters (edited by Thomas H. Johnson); Dickinson, Emily: The Poems of Emily Dickinson (edited by R.W. Franklin)​

Other Readings and Media

Course reader, available by the first class from Krishna Copy (University and Milvia)

Description

This seminar will provide you with a sustained reading course in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet.  We’ll begin with her early poetry, and trace her evolution into the singular poet we read today, with particular attention to her hymn forms and her figures.  We’ll also consider how her poems might be read in relation to history and her biography.  Since Dickinson wrote most of her poetry in the span of a few years, we’ll group and read her poems largely by topics.  Our topics will include love and gender, definition and riddle, poetics, nature, religion, death and dying, suspense, horror, loneliness, exaltation and despair, self in society and by itself, abolition and war.  We’ll also delve into her manuscripts of individual poems, packets of poems, and letters.  Especially with her later poems, the distinctions between verses, poems, and letters become hazy.  To gauge Dickinson’s singularity and commonness, we will also read poems and essays by her contemporaries (e.g., Lydia Sigourney, Ralph Emerson, Henry Longfellow, Helen Hunt Jackson).  Your first paper will be a reading of a single poem.  Your seminar paper will gather a collection poems on a topic of your choosing, in conversation with recent criticism.  By the end of the seminar, you will be reading and writing on Dickinson with pleasure and brilliance.  (No kidding!) 

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