“Mastering the Master” is forthcoming in A Changing Rapture: The Development of Emily Dickinson's Poetry from the University Press of Florida.

_______

For a selection of Aliki's poems in this issue.

For a selection of poetry in our Fall Issue.

_______

Aliki's poems at Exquisite Corpse

________

To order books at bn.com by Aliki Barnstone

To order Madly In Love, call:
Cornell UP Services
1-800-666-2211

________

"Mastering the Master" appeared in slightly different form in The Calvinist Roots of the Modern Era, edited by Aliki Barnstone, Michael Tomasek Manson, and Carol J. Singley (Hanover:University Press of New England, 1997).

________

To visit Aliki's website



Mastering the Master: Appropriations of Crisis Conversion in Emily Dickinson's Poems of 1863

By Aliki Barnstone

Let Emily sing for you because she cannot pray. (L2780)
—Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's religion was Poetry.(Howe 48)
—Susan Howe

The old words are numb—and there a' nt any new ones—Brooks—are useless—in Freshet—time— (L252)
—Emily Dickinson

I cannot tell when I first became aware that she had elected her own way of life.(Bianchi 48)
—Martha Bianchi Dickinson


***** On the outskirts of the city of Madison, Wisconsin, where I once lived, a sign in front of a farm reads, All the world guilty before God. The Puritan tradition of guilt and original sin, familiar to Emily Dickinson, has sustained its power for a long time. Indeed to the Wisconsin farmer who proclaims,“All the world guilty before God,” she might dare ask if God himself is te guilty party. “Whether Deity's guiltless/My business is to find!” (Fr 175). So Emily Dickinson So Emily Dickinson talked with the Master but rejected the orthodox premise for the conversation. In the poem beginning “The Bible is an antique Volume- /Written by faded men,” she mockingly writes that sin is “a distinguished Precipice/ Others must resist” (Fr 1577; 1882). But Dickinson maintained her worldliness as when she writes,“The mysteries of human nature surprass the 'mysteries of redemption.'” She was an outsider, resisting the religious revivals of her time and her education at the evangelical Mount Holyoke Seminary:

How lonely this world is growing, something so desolate creeps over the spirit and we don't know it's [sic] name, and it won't go away, either Heaven is seeming greater, or Earth a great deal more small, or God is more “Our Father,” and we feel our need increased. Christ is calling everyone here, all my companions have answered . . . . I cant tell you what they have found, but they think it is something precious. I wonder if it is? How strange is this sanctification, that works such a marvelous change, that sows in such corruption, and rises in golden glory, that brings Christ down, and shews him, and lets him select his friends! (L 35)

***** The letter asserts that she has chosen not to join the flock. She is skeptical about what her companions have found, and that skepticism leads to satire. Dickinson makes fun of the notions of status and size, casting perception into doubt. Heaven seems greater and earth smaller. God is a greater father while humanity feels its need increased in the face of its own lowliness. The people around her think they have found “something precious,” but Dickinson questions the value of their truth, pointing out that the hierarchy is perceived by some but not by others; she casts her uncertainty in the telling understatement: “I wonder if it is.” Yet her friends' perception of Christ's ascendancy gives Him His power and “lets him select his friends” (while presumably excluding the unelect). The letter also reveals Dickinson's loneliness. That her friends and family converted gave her a double sorrow, for she was shut out of love in two ways: Christ did not come down and “select” her for a friend, and her earthly friends who stood with Christ abandoned her, for they, with the other elect, would be together on the other side. Conversion became something “desolate that creeps over the spirit.” Through satire Dickinson contends with this desolation, with election's pain-inflicting companions: loss and exclusion.
***** The tone of the above 1850 letter—also the year her first poem is dated—combines satirical whimsy with lament. And in the poems written in this first stage of her career, she similarly satirizes election from the vantage of her own exclusion. Fighting off her cultural inheritance, an outsider, she sets her language apart from the voices she mocks, frequently framing the mocked voices in quotation marks, as in these humorous lines at the end of the poem beginning “'Arcturus' is his other name / I'd rather call him 'Star'”:

Perhaps the “Kingdom of Heaven's” changed
I hope the “Children” there
Won't be “new fashioned” when I come —
And laugh at me— and stare —

I hope the Father in the skies
Will lift his little girl —
Old fashioned — naughty — everything —
Over the stile of “Pearl.” (Fr 117, 1859)

In this poem, as in many early poems, she throws into doubt conventional, theological, and even scientific naming. By taking the position of the “naughty” girl, she makes fun of those who imagine the mystery of an afterlife in the terms of familiar social categories.
***** In another early poem, she transforms prayer into a jesting nursery rhyme:

Papa above!
Regard a mouse
O'erpowered by the Cat!
Reserve within thy kingdom

A “Mansion” for the Rat! (J 61; Fr 151; 1860)
The tone of the line, “A 'Mansion' for the Rat!” mixes outrage with the ominous and even the grotesque. This stanza lowers the reverent diction of “Our father who art in heaven” to the familiar and rather taunting, “Papa above!” As she says in another poem beginning, “Going to Heaven” (Fr 128), “I'm glad I don't believe it.” As these poems show, Dickinson is able in her early poems to set her language apart from the voices she satirizes; she is engaged in an externalized battle with her cultural inheritance.
***** These early satirical poems culminate around 1863, when she internalizes the battle and begins the second period of her career. (I use “the poems of 1863” as a category because close to four hundred of Dickinson's poems are dated 1863. This means that she was writing over a poem a day in that year or that she was making fair copy into fascicles and letters at this prolific rate. Whether Dickinson actually composed these poems in 1863 or whether she finished revising them in that year does not matter for my purpose, which is to draw the large outline of her development. Two of the poems, “There's a certain Slant of light” (Fr 320) and “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (Fr 340), that I use as prototypes of her “self-conversion” period are dated 1862. The astonishing number of poems produced in the period in and around the year 1863 shows that during this time Dickinson was deeply preoccupied with an internal struggle with Calvinism and with love. This love--whether of God or of another person--is shaped by Calvinism's severity, its associations with loss and exclusion, and its power to overwhelm. I believe by writing so many poems in this period, Dickinson performed a kind of ritual mastery over the forces she felt could master her: religion, love, ecstatic experience. Traditionally, Dickinson's ^annus mirabilis^ has set been 1862, based on Johnson's dating, is 1862, but Franklin's 1998 Variorum sets the date at 1863.) She has what one might call a grand intertextual experience. When she writes, “The Brain is wider than the Sky / . . . / The one the other will contain / With ease—and You—beside—,” she observes that the text of the world forms the text of her mind. In a letter she affirms her conversion to poetry: “Let Emily sing for you because she cannot pray”(L 278). Susan Howe puts it succinctly: “Emily Dickinson's religion was Poetry” (Howe 48).
***** As a consequence of her internal combat with her religious and cultural inheritance, in the second phase of her poetic development, numbness emerges as one of Dickinson's primary poetic modes. Thus, Dickinson observes that the saved man “hath endured / The dissolution—in Himself” (Fr 659539). Internal forces rage, paining her, overwhelming, dividing, and ultimately numbing her. This numbing is frequently an inner death. Or the self is dislocated or multiple. She depicts this self-division relentlessly, as the first lines of these famous poems show:

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (Fr 340)

I got so I could take his name / Without Tremendous gain / That Stop—sensation—on my Soul (Fr 292)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes (Fr 372)

I felt my life with both my hands / To see if it was there (Fr 357)

There's a Languor in the life / More imminent than Pain (Fr 552)

The Soul has Bandaged moments— (Fr 760)

Pain—has an Element of Blank— (P 650)

In these numb poems, as in conversion, the self is numb to itself. Because Dickinson contains the self-exiling theology of crisis conversion in the poems, they are a form of mastery—a mastery of containment through language. (When I describe the self in pain, I do not wish to engage in the kind of psychobiography-correctly refuted by Juhasz, Miller, and Smith in Comic Power and by Elizabeth Phillips in Personae and Performance-which one-dimensionally portrays Dickinson as a tragic figure. From my perspective, Phillips makes an excellent point when she observes that the intensity of poems from this period dramatic monologue s and literary performances: “She writes 'as the Representative' of the verse and the “supposed person” to claim the privilege to draw upon whatever resources are available to her for writing. . . . the dramatic monologue is a genre by which to move beyond 'me, myself' into a relationship with them. The view that she wrote almost exclusively about herself, however, pervades Dickinson studies” (81). As all writers must, Dickinson drew on her own experiences in order to dramatize the “supposed person.” I am depicting a process in this chapter, as well as the ways in which, through her writing, the poet traversed the theological and relational realms.)
***** Dickinson's mastery means annihilating the self to transform it into art. Her language exceeds conventional boundaries because, as she writes in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, she is not the subject of a ruler; she has annihilated the governing language of sin and abjectness: “I had no Monarch in my life, and cannot rule myself, and when I try to organize—my little Force explodes—and leaves me bare and charred—” (L 271).(These words in letter 271 scan perfectly in iambic tetrameters and trimeters, Dickinson's characteristic hymnal meter. Her letters carry the same radical poetics as her identified verse, as well as the same spiritual battle for liberation.) Sixty years before Eliot's “Waste Land,” Emily Dickinson, in a numb desolation in which no Monarch prevails, creates an intensely personal idiolect and radical poetics, all of which bloom in her own proto-modernism.
***** Accordingly, in this David and Goliath allegory, she regards her earlier assaults as self-destructive:

I took my Power in my Hand—
And went against the World—
. . . . . . . . . . . . . I aimed my Pebble—but Myself
Was all the one that fell— (Fr 449; 1862)

***** The poems that recount pain—with this wavering circumference and the deadening of that pain—frequently have a male figure as the source of the soul's dilemma. For example, in “I got so I could take his name” (which plays on “taking the Lord's name in vain”), it is a “He” who causes “That Stop—sensation—on my Soul.” In some numb poems, there are two internal male figures—one godly, one demonic—vying to conquer the soul. In “The Soul has Bandaged Moments—” a personified thought, “a Goblin,” accosts another personified thought, the “Lover,” who is “a Theme so fair.” In “'Twas like a Maelstrom, with a notch,” the masculine figures are more specifically godly and demonic:

And not a Sinew—stirred—could help,
And sense was setting numb— When God—remembered—and the Fiend—
Let go, then, overcome— (Fr 425:1862)

***** This vast and embattled self has particular significance for Calvinist election. First, even though Dickinson may have chosen not to heed Christ's call, she reveals that the internal imperative to do so remains. Second, this self with its compromised boundaries corresponds to what the soul must endure in the conversion process. The Calvinist self, like the self in Dickinson's numb poems, will be divided, self-annihilated, and overwhelmed. Crisis conversion, as Mitchell Breitwieser writes in his discussion of Cotton Mather, begins with a “severe trauma” in which the self discovers it continues “only by the arbitrary kindness of God . . . Mather repeatedly calls it a kind of dying . . . A part of thought would step out of self and look upon it. It would see two things: sin, that is the baseness and vanity of self; and its inability to correct error” (28—29). Once the self is annihilated and thereby utterly submissive to divine will, “the law can be seen clearly” and “the mind can rise to survey the whole pattern in which it has accepted its part” (30).
***** Cotton Mather strives to give himself to God by abasing consciousness. Thus, in his diary he writes, “There is nothing of more Consequence to my Safety and Welfare, than a constant strain, of the most self abasing Humility. Wherefore I would constantly chase all vain Thoughts, and Vainglorious Ones out of my Mind, with the greatest Abhorrence of them” (qtd. In Breitwieser 32). This hunt in which the self is prey is itself a form of consciousness in that it drives out what Dickinson might call “Fiendish” thoughts. By implication, it must maintain the thoughts focused on God, so that, in Dickinson's terms, God will “remember” and the “Fiend / Let go, then, Overcome.”
***** Dickinson's doubt goes beyond orthodox uncertainty. She internalizes the conflict—and its attendant doubt—that before was externalized. The numb poems fight dual internal battles: one the Calvinist battle against the self and the other against a cultural inheritance urging just such conversion. The enigmatic poem, “Me from Myself— to banish—” is a model for Dickinson's transformation of crisis conversion into poetry; it can be read both as a prayer for the self—banishment of conversion and as a description of Dickinson's poetics. The poem, as in the Bible, proceeds by logical parallelism and speaks in riddles. In the Gospel of Mark, when the Twelve ask Jesus why he speaks in parables he answers that it is to keep the unelect outside, “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (4:12). In this poem, as in so many others, Dickinson the outsider adopts the strategy of the Jesus parables, in which, as Frank Kermode puts it, “The riddle remains dark, so does the gospel” (47). Thus, “Me from Myself— to Banish—” poses a riddle that with each line is complicated and questioned, recomplicated and requestioned; with each articulation, the darkness is intensified, but, as in one of Mark Rothko's dark canvases, there is much to see in the blackness:

Me from Myself — to banish —
Had I Art —
+Invincible my Fortress
+Unto all Heart —

But since Myself — assault Me —
How have I peace
Except by subjugating
Consciousness?

And since We're mutual Monarch
How this be
Except Abdication —
Me — of Me?

+impregnable +to foreign Heart
(Fr 709; 1863)

***** On the one hand, this poem employs the language of Calvinism and expresses Dickinson's desire to convert. On the other, the poem turns Calvinist language against itself. Thus, if the questions asked in Dickinson's poem are answered affirmatively, then the poem rehearses the anguish of conversion and advocates banishment, subjugation, and abdication of the self, just as would the Puritan seeking to give herself to God. The assaulted self in Dickinson's poem wants “peace / . . . by subjugating / Consciousness” or, in Mather's terms, must “constantly chase all vain Thoughts” out of mind. Likewise, the self must abdicate its position as ruler in order to be subject to God.
***** Since one can never be assured of salvation, it is fitting that a Calvinist reading of “Me from Myself—to banish—” is equivocal. The poem resists theology with its doubting structure in the way each line questions the previous line. David Porter's observation that Dickinson's poems move “from belief to questioning and disjunction” (91) is true of the structure of “Me from Myself” which moves from an assertion in the first stanza to two questions in the second and third stanzas. The disjunction is in self from self and, as Dickinson writes in another poem, in “internal difference / Where the Meanings, are” (Fr 320). That is to say, the first stanza states that the exaction of conversion is self—banishment and that the desired result is to be invincible to the temptations of the heart. To shut out the self that cherishes corrupt worldly love would make the speaker free to accept Christ's love. However, although the poem implies God by the language of conversion theology, it does not mention God (and, as Marianne Moore observes, “Omissions are not accidents”). (“Omissions are not accidents,” written by Moore, is the epigraph of The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore.) By omitting God, Dickinson circles back to the “Fortress” that is “Myself.” In this alternative reading, the double meaning of the pivotal line, “Had I Art,” moves away from the more humble, “had I means,” toward the more self—reflexive, “had I Poetry.” The self wishes to shut out the love of God, to construct a fortress of the self that would be impregnable to God's invasive Word. In the fortress that she constructs with her own human word, God's intrusive divine Word will not penetrate. In the same moment that the poem seems to assert faith, it likewise asserts the disjunction in the self—annihilating requirements of Calvinist conversion. That disjunction turns the poem toward self—conversion, which is to say, her conversion to art.
***** The poem's disjunctive structure is typical of Dickinson's poetic strategy. Martha Dickinson Bianchi says that the Puritan's “shadows hung over” the poet. Even after she saw the “fictional quality” of their theology. Karl Keller writes that Dickinson cannot escape the very religious vision she protests: She stamps her foot at what she stands on. She yells at the voice she yells with. Like the Brahma, it is with Puritan wings that she has the power to flee the Puritan past” {67—68}. Seen in this way, the assaulted self in the second stanza is the one who is attacked by its cultural inheritance; she achieves peace by “subjugating” the consciousness that contains that inheritance. The poem, then, may be seeking to banish not the self that resists conversion, but the self that is infused with conversion's self-banishing theology.
***** Thus, the poem addresses the problem of the split self by suggesting that each self is so integrally related to the other that abdication is impossible. If one returns to the first stanza, one can see that the poem's impossible formula of self-banishment hinges on the subjunctive, “Had I Art.” “Mutual Monarchs,” “Me” and “Me,” are the author and the Calvinist text, each subject to the other, and each author of the other's being.
Of course—I prayed—
And did God Care?
He cared as much as on the Air
A Bird—had stamped her foot—
And cried “Give Me”—
My Reason—Life—
I had not had—but for Yourself—
'Twere better Charity
To leave me in the Atom's Tomb—
Merry, and Nought, and gay, and numb—
Than this smart Misery (Fr 581; 1863)

God's indifference triggers Dickinson's experience of self—banishment, numbness, self—conversion, and art. Numb poems, such as “Me from Myself—to banish” and the one above describe a religious and artistic practice. Again and again they record a self—banishment that ends not in conversion, but in poetry. These poems, like the experience of crisis conversion, can be regarded as ecstatic, for ekstasis in its Greek etymology is to be “put out of place,” that is to say, to stand outside oneself. The self is moved to some other state. In Dickinson's case, when the self stands outside, its boundaries can be filled (or expanded) by God or art. Thus, in Dickinson's lines of numbness (“Pain—has an element of Blank—” and “After great pain, a formal feeling comes—” for example) the ecstatic religious experience of conversion is an analogy for ecstatic artistic experience. It is Dickinson's art—and not God— that elects her to immortality. I call this practice, “self-conversion.”
***** As Cynthia Griffin Wolff points out, conversion was popularly regarded as just such “a falling into Love's powerful attraction”: “For the women especially, this Christ Who came to call for them so importunately— offering himself as the 'Bridegroom' of salvation and beseeching them to become 'Brides of Christ' by accepting faith—could be a compelling Suitor” (103). Dickinson makes these connections between conversion and both kinds of love, profane and holy. Since she is always turning toward self-conversion, she, too, is evangelical in the sense that she wants the reader to convert to her. In the following poem, she proclaims that “The Saints” will remember her:

My Holiday, shall be
That They—remember me—
My Paradise—the fame
That They—pronounce my name— (Fr 389;1862)

***** For all her criticism, Dickinson is not cynical about conversion or love. If conversion were reciprocal, it would indeed be a divine love, a mutual reading in which both selves ecstatically stood aside for the other. One can see this hope in one of Dickinson's most despairing pieces of writing, the second “Master Letter,” which, like most of the numb poems, was written in ????1862?.

MASTER. *** If you saw a bullet hit a Bird—and he told you he was'nt shot —you might weep at his courtesy, but you would certainly doubt his word. **** One drop more from the gash that stains your Daisy's bosom— then would you believe? Thomas' faith in Anatomy, was stronger than his faith in faith. God made me—[Sir] Master—I did'nt be— myself. I dont know how it was done. He built the heart in me— Bye and bye it outgrew me—and like the little mother—with the big child—I got tired holding him. I heard of a thing called “Redemption”—which rested on men and women. You remember I asked you for it—you gave me something else. I forgot the Redemption [in the Redeemed—and I did'nt tell you for a long time, but I knew you had altered me—I] was tired—no more—[so dear did this stranger become that were it, or my breath—the Alternative—I had tossed the fellow away with a smile.] . . . .If it had been God's will that I might breathe where you breathed—and find the place— myself—at night . . . .the prank of the Heart at play on the heart—in holy Holiday—is forbidden me— *** I dont know what you can do for it—thank you—Master—but if I had the Beard on my cheek—like you—and you—had Daisy's petals— and you cared so for me—what would become of you? . . . . Say I may wait for you—say I need go with no stranger to the to me— untried [country] fold . . . .

***** Although this letter is “a world desolated . . . by the loss of . . . communication,” it contains instructions to the Master—reader, who, even as he acts on the letter in order to read it, must stand outside himself to make way for the text. Dickinson teaches belief and doubt: “If you saw a bullet hit a Bird—and he told you he was'nt shot—you might weep at his courtesy, but you would certainly doubt his word.” This injunction, which might be summarized as, “believe not words, but you what you see” is followed by a fervent request for the Master to believe “not what you see, but words.” He is to believe a metaphor: that the words on the page are a drop of blood from the wound on “Daisy's bosom.” (Wolff explains, “The letter clearly implies that although the beloved ought to have been able to infer her pain (even though she disavowed it when they were together), the written words of this letter must play a role in making the invisible wound apparent” (408).) “Thomas' faith in Anatomy, was stronger than his faith in faith.” But to what kind of anatomy is she referring? The sentences preceding and succeeding the adage about Thomas refer to the anatomy of the soul, to Daisy's wounded bosom with its self made by God and its heart built by God, the heart that outgrows its boundaries and “—like the little mother—with the big child—” becomes tiring and stands outside as a “him.”
***** This anatomy of the soul is also the anatomy of the “thing called 'Redemption' which rested on men and women.” Which “fellow” is it who would be tossed away “with a smile”? Breath, Redemption, the stranger, the heart “built by God,” the him, the her, or the it?
***** Dickinson speaks both in the first person and in the third person as Daisy; to say “God made me . . . I did'nt be—myself” is to say “I didn't become myself by my own volition,” “I didn't have being,” and “I didn't have being by my own volition.” She is left in the place where “We must meet apart,” with her art, wit, the blankness of doubt, and “that White Sustenance / Despair” (Fr 706; 1963).
***** Yet even as the letter shows the impossibility of redemption through love, it asserts its possibility by asking the Master for empathy. If the Master would believe, he would convert. He would become a woman: “but if I had the Beard on my cheek—like you—and you—had Daisy's petals—and you cared so for me—what would become of you?” Even the Puritans questioned whether their understanding of the Word was God's absolute meaning or a product of Fancy. Dickinson goes farther than doubting whether her perception is true. She takes pleasure in multiplicity and even in one poem declares, “the Object Absolute is Nought.” (James McIntosh writes that one of “Dickinson's key principles . . . is the idea that belief and thought and feeling are transient, that one's mental life is continually in flux. Mostly, Dickinson prefers it that way. . . . she cherishes evanescence and makes poetry out of 'internal difference.”(2)) Although she appropriates religious discourse, she equivocates. Her poems, as Mutlu Konuk Blasing writes, “[rule] out any authoritative reading” (178). The poem “There's a certain Slant of light” invites this sort of equivocating slant on God:

There's a certain Slant of light
Winter Afternoons—
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes—

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us—
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the Meanings, are—

None may teach it—Any—
'Tis the Seal Despair—
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air—

When it comes, the Landscape listens—
Shadows hold their breath—
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death— (Fr 320; 1862)

***** As in “Me from Myself—to banish,” “There's a certain Slant of light” does not mention God, but nevertheless undercuts His Supreme Authority. Dickinson's Puritan predecessors, Mary Rowlandson and Anne Bradstreet, upheld the tenet of affliction as a good lesson. Rowlandson makes her captivity narrative public “for the Benefit of the Afflicted” (317).
***** Unlike Rowlandson and Bradstreet, Dickinson is not reassured that affliction is the sign of God's Paternal Omnipresence. Rather, affliction is the sign of His absence and His inscrutability. Whatever sign the Lord may appear to send only further obscures knowledge of Him, thereby intensifying the affliction. ( As Wolff sees it, “If God's absence is compensated by words and signs, these are forms that . . . .[insinuate] falsehood into our beliefs-revising our “sight” so we can accept his mutilations without complaint. God urges us to seek Him, but when “enlightenment” comes, it is knifelike and cold-[“a certain Slant of light, / Winter Afternoons-”] . . . . God still refuses to loosen the Seal of Revelation; instead he inflicts the “Seal Despair” . . . . And this, too, invades the coherence of the self . . . . God's prevarications and false promises call . . . we turn away . . . and still the mind has been violated and sullied-even if only with the desire for hope”(155).) In “There's a certain Slant of light,” Dickinson appropriates God's signs and fills them with empty despair.
***** This blankness throws affliction's “imperial” modification into question. Affliction seems to come out of nowhere, out of “the air”; it has no sign—“We can find no scar”—and no significance—“But internal difference / Where the meanings, are.” Even light, God's emissary, is merely the object of a preposition, not worthy of being a subject nor of being capitalized. It is the light's “Slant” that is subject and capitalized. And that slant seems to hit each word at a different angle. The slant is also Dickinson's oblique self receiving orthodox messages.
The poem's end is filled with loss: the loss of the light and the loss of the speaker and the reader as they exit the poem. The “Slant of light,” in all its variety, refracts infinitely in each facet of the “it” that it illuminates. The light, God's sign, is multiple, not absolute. Paradoxically, by refuting religious doctrine, she restores God's unknowability and thereby asserts a fundamental tenet of Puritanism. In her doubt, she is a most pure Puritan.
***** In that blankness is Emily Dickinson's poetry, a poetry devoted to the unknowable. In her ambiguity of meaning, her fragmented form, her doubt and parody of tradition and God, in her finding her home in the wasteland of self-division and in her transference of meaning from God to poetry, Dickinson anticipated the concerns and techniques of the modernists. Her doubt and radical theology of self-conversion provide her with the language of negation, the tongue of blankness, and the slanted faith of her proto-modernist poetry. Brilliant, innovative, it is her Faith.


Works Cited


Bianchi, Martha Dickinson. Emily Dickinson Face to Face. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932.

Bradstreet, Anne. “Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666.” The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry. Ed. Perry Miller. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1956.

Breitwieser, Mitchell Robert. Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin: The Price of Representative Personality.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Blasing, Mutlu Konuk. American Poetry: The Rhetoric of its Forms. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.

Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorium Edition. Ed. R.W. Franklin. 3 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. Cited in text as Fr.
----. The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward. 3 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958. Letters cited in text as L. The letter number of the Master Letter is L233.

Homans, Margaret. Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Bronte, and Emily Dickinson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Howe, Susan. My Emily Dickinson.. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1985.

Juhasz, Suzanne, Cristanne Miler, and Martha Nell Smith, Comic Power in Emily Dickinson, University of Texas Press, 1993.

Keller, Karl. The Only Kangaroo Among the Beauty: Emily Dickinson and America.. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.

Kermode, Frank. The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative.. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979.

McIntosh, James. Nimble Believeing: Dickinson and the Unknown. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1954.

Milton, John. The Complete Poetry of John Milton. Ed. John T. Shawcross. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1971.

Moore, Marianne. The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. New York: Macmillan / Viking, 1967.

Morgan, Edmund S. Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1965.

Pettit, Norman. The Heart Prepared. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966; rpt., Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.

Phillips, Elizabeth. Emily Dickinson: Personae and Performance. State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988.

Porter, David. “Emily Dickinson: The Poetics of Doubt.” Emerson Society Quarterly 60 (Summer 1970): 86-93.

Rowlandson, Mary. “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson” So Dreadful a Judgment: Puritan Responses to King Philip's War, 1676-1677. Ed. Richard Slotkin and James K. Folsom. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1978. 315-366.

St. Armand, Barton Levi. Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul's Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Wolff, Cynthia Griffin.Emily Dickinson. New York: Knopf, 1986.