Emily Dickinson, Feminist?

Last semester, in my English class, we read and discussed some of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  Although some of it is beyond me (I’ll never understand her capitalization patterns),  I absolutely love the vast majority of what I have read by her.  Perhaps this is because a good deal of her works feature strong feminist strains.  While she was probably not a feminist in the political sense (she was not out marching for suffrage or women’s equality), she was well-educated, and challenged many of the conventions of her time, like by never marrying.  She also appears to have actively questioned women’s inferiority and even blind religious faith in her poetry, depending upon how one reads them.  That said, here are some of my favorites, :

The first is, in my opinion, her most obviously feminist poem, found at this site :

She rose to his requirement, dropped
The playthings of her life
To take the honorable work
Of woman and of wife.

If aught she missed in her new day
Of amplitude, or awe,
Or first prospective, or the gold
In using wore away,

It lay unmentioned, as the sea
Develops pearl and weed,
But only to himself is known
The fathoms they abide.

Clearly a woman ahead of her time! Next up is one of my favorites, found here:

“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

I love how tongue in cheek this poem is!  I really like how Ms. Dickinson was a free-thinker and a skeptic, if not an outright atheist.  She really saw the truth of the world, even if she never left her house!

This last one is my all-time favorite Dickinson poem, found here:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was   it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
Emily Dickinson was incredibly attuned to the finer points of the human psyche, at least in her poetry.  At any rate, she’s a fascinating figure, and well worth your time to look into.  I hope you enjoy her poetry, or at least her life story, as much as I do!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Palaverer
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 21:48:38

    Here via Feministe. I love Emily Dickinson and I thought for sure I’d come here to find some of her more popular poems, but you showcased ones I haven’t heard before. Thanks.


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