Emily Dickinson Is Viewed by Many Historians Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2068 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Biology

Emily Dickinson is viewed by many historians as the greatest female poet of American history, yet a true understanding of how she came to be both profound and articulate has been hard to come by. The voice that she uses within her poem seems to contrast dramatically from her real life persona. Dickinson was born in Amherst Massachusetts, and never left her native town for any real duration, dying there in 1886. Her personal life seemed unexceptional in the least, as she lived as a spinster for the entirety of her life. However, none of these surface facts implicate the rich understanding of human nature and literary persuasion that Dickinson possessed. The purpose of this particular paper is to examine how Dickinson obtained and used her knowledge to create her literary masterpieces. Emily Dickinson used a strongly versed understanding of the sciences to fashion literary dialogues on her perspectives on her personal life and the world at large.

The majority of Dickinson's seminal works included discussions on the role of religion within personal and community life, true love and its effects on individuals, current scientific understand as well as women's place within society. Her perspective on these controversial issues is all extremely unconventional, which raises the question of how she developed her understanding of these complex themes. Her hermetic lifestyle seems to deviate from a true understanding of such complex subjects that she has little direct personal experience with. However, a deeper examination of her life reveals that Dickinson experienced a rich education that exposed her to a tremendous knowledge base and understanding of sciences. It is these tools that enabled her to formulate the masterpieces within her collection.

Emily Dickinson's life was not nearly as tawdry as at first glance. The Dickinson family within Amherst was the center of political activity and high society. All of the Dickinson men were attorneys with strong political ambitions, and as a result the Dickinson home was the site for the annual Amherst College commencement receptions. It is evident through letters that Dickinson was raised for a life of political activity and public service; she learned the nuances of political dialogue and met some of the most influential law makers of her generation (Crumbley, npg). However, Dickinson was limited by her sex, a pre-eminent topic within her poetry. She writes in one letter, "Why can't I be a Delegate to the great Whig Convention? -- don't I know all about Daniel Webster, and the Tariff and the Law?" (CRUMBLEY, NPG). Growing up within a political charged family allowed Dickinson to receive a strong foundational understanding of politics and human nature. It is from this strong background that Dickinson emerged with an extremely strong appreciation for knowledge that would be the infrastructure for her literary works. Her childhood upbringing within this political charged atmosphere cannot be overlooked. Dickinson within her poetry helps strong opinions on social problems of the time, especially the issue of women's rights and their place within society. These opinions are indicative of a strong appreciation for the political atmosphere of her times, as well as a powerful understanding of human nature. Both of these qualities were strongly reinforced through her refinement within politics as a child (Crumbley, npg). If she were not limited by her sex, Emily Dickinson could very well have been one of the great statesmen of that particular era.

It is apparent that Dickinson's received strong education within the sciences, and she enshrined as one of the brightest woman to graduate from Amherst Academy. Dickinson completed her degree from Amherst in three years, and also studied a year at Mount Holyoke. Even as a student her composition "dazzled her teachers," her brother wrote, "Her compositions were unlike anything ever heard and always produced a sensation, both with the scholars and the teachers, her imagination sparkled and she gave it free rein" (CRUMBLEY, NPG). The strength of Dickinson is her unrelenting need to seek the truth; this is evident within her poetry, but also within her college life. Dickinson gained notoriety as one of the only student unwilling to publicly confess faith in Christ. As a result, she was ostracized by the community and labeled as a person with "no hope" of salvation. This fiery resistance to conversion in the face of public pressure is a public glimpse at the lifelong desire and willingness to oppose popular sentiment. Dickinson gained much of her perspective on life and the need to defy conventional society through her college experience. The experience at Mount Holyoke maybe very well have been the catalyst that brought to the surface an intense independence that would fuel Dickinson's later writings. Dickinson's college experience takes an important part of this dialogue, because she exhibited the innate intelligence that allows us to grasp how she was able to fashion her poetry. Her ability to stand up to conventional society by asserting her own opinions and beliefs is indicative of how she would later challenge social norms in her literature. Her college education therefore, was the foundation of education that allowed her infers the ideas that she later developed.

Her education throughout her childhood and in college developed into a deep appreciation for the sciences. Few poets have ever attempted to incorporate scientific concepts into their work as effectively as Emily Dickinson. Her poetry shows that she had an amazing grasp of scientific and technical vocabulary that was exemplary in her era. She has written more than two hundred poems that touch upon the scientific themes. Even more importantly, her understanding of these scientific themes was the groundwork for her other perspectives on life, love and society. Her appreciation for the sciences was cultivated at Mount Holyoke, where she studied the subjects with intense enthusiasm. She wrote to her brother that she was "engrossed in the history of Sulphuric Acid" while at Mount Holyoke (White, 122). Many factors contributed to the importance of science within Dickinson's life. The most important being that she lived in an era of widespread scientific entrenchment and great technological advancements, within this time period the spread of technology and industry profoundly impacted society. During the 1830s and 40s, some of the most important catalysts for industry were invented such as electromagnetic induction and electromotive force, by Joseph Henry. During this period chloroform was invented, the first steam railways were built within the U.S., and the telegraph was invented. The contributions of these scientific revolutions must have had a provide impact on Dickinson. She proclaimed in one letter to Thomas Higginson that "business is circumference." It is evident that she Dickinson regarded science as the basic litmus test for the boundaries of human understanding and experiences. Science took on two important functions within Dickinson's world (White, 122). It first became the spark for worldwide transformation in astonishing ways. Technology was "sending locomotives charging into the New England garden like Boanerges in 'I like to see it lap the Miles" (P 585), [5] or sending lightning 'singing... with Insulators... upon the Ropes -- above our Head-- / Continual -- with the News" (P 630). On the other hand, the sciences were also touching an even more profound area of her life. The provided a new and greater contextualized understanding of humankind's search for the Truth. Dickinson saw religion as a catalyst for the development of certainty and the undermining of the validity associated with religion and aesthetics.

Science plays an intrinsic role in the epistemological dilemma of Dickinson's poetry. She is consistently struggling between certainly and uncertainly, in attempting to find a strong conceptualization of life, but at the same time tentatively suggesting that ignorance is bliss. She implies in one poem that the secrets of nature are revealed everywhere, "to be plucked like berries"; however we must resist this desire for knowledge because "It's finer -- not to know-- / if Summer was an Axiom / what sorcery had Snow?" (P 191). She eludes within this passage that her perspective on scientific fact is very not extremely favorable. She implies that scientific impulse, the desire to solve all the mysteries of life, is what most is damaging to the development of the human spirit. In Poem 70 she writes, "I pull a flower from the woods-- / a monster with a glass / Computes the stamens in a breath-- / and has her in a 'class'!" (P 70). Critics argue that Dickinson uses her poetry much as scientists use the laboratory to test and experiment with her language. In these efforts, she much like scientists everywhere is attempting to comprehend the essence of Truth.

The role of science was not limited only to applications of scientific ideology within her poetry. Dickinson was also used many themed sciences within her works, especially in the subject of geology. While at Mount Holyoke, Dickinson was taught by a pre-eminent naturalist and geologist, Edward Hitchcock. In many of her seminal works, she refers to "Volcanoes be in Sicily / and South America / I judge from my geography.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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