Friday, December 20, 2013

The Mystery of Emily Dickinson

From New Republic:
Emily Dickinson is a conspicuous victim of a scholastic tendency to freeze our concepts of a writer's life, perhaps because a frozen concept is easier to grasp, and to pass on, than those more slippery and troublesome non-objects known as artists. There are music-listening courses that use the tags of "Papa Haydn" and "the charming Mozart," and courses in American literature have developed similar labels whose harm far outweighs their convenience. Our Emily is in much the same position as that “comical Mark Twain” before Van Wyck Brooks showed him, newly and darkly, to us. Our Emily, of course, unaware of community and nation, never sees anyone, never wears any color but white, never does a lick of work about the house beyond baking batches of cookies for secret delivery to favorite children and meditating majestically among her flowers—this is an Emily who remains hidden in her second-floor bedroom, jotting down little verses that help her to keep alive the great love that she renounced many, many years since. This is the image foisted on us for so long that we now accept it as fact; we not only suspect anything we hear that does not “fit,” but we criticize Miss Dickinson for being this absurd fiction. (Read more.)

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