The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Philosophical Perspectives

ISBN : 9780190651190

Elisabeth Camp
232 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Mar 2021
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One of America's most celebrated poets, Emily Dickinson was virtually unpublished in her lifetime. When a slim volume of her poems emerged on the American scene in 1890, her work created shockwaves that have not subsided yet. Famously precise and sparse, Emily Dickinson's poetry is often described as philosophical, both because her poetry grapples with philosophical topics like death, spirituality, and the darkening operations of the mind, and because she approaches those topics in a characteristically philosophical manner: analyzing and extrapolating from close observation, exploring alternatives, and connecting thoughts into cumulative demonstrations. But unlike Lucretius or Pope, she cannot be accused of producing versified treatises. Many of her poems are unsettling in their lack of conclusion; their disparate insights often stand in conflict; and her logic turns crucially on imagery, juxtaposition, assonance, slant rhyme, and punctuation. The six chapters of this volume collectively argue that Dickinson is an epistemically ambitious poet, who explores fundamental questions by advancing arguments that are designed to convince. Dickinson exemplifies abstract ideas in tangible form and habituates readers into productive trains of thought-she doesn't just make philosophical claims, but demonstrates how poetry can make a distinct contribution to philosophy. All essays in this volume, drawn from both philosophers and literary theorists, serve as a counterpoint to recent critical work, which has emphasized Dickinson's anguished uncertainty, her nonconventional style, and the unsettled status of her manuscripts. On the view that emerges here, knowing is like cleaning, mending, and lacemakingL a form of hard, ongoing work, but one for which poetry is a powerful, perhaps indispensable, tool.


Editor's Introduction: Emily Dickinson's Epistemic Ambitions for Poetry
Chapter 1: Forms of Emotional Knowing and Unknowing: Skepticism and Belief in Dickinson's Poetry, Rick Anthony Furtak
Chapter 2: Interiority and Expression in Dickinson's Lyrics, Magdalena Ostas
Chapter 3: How to Know Everything, Oren Izenberg
Chapter 4: Form and Content in Emily Dickinson's Poetry, Antony Aumann
Chapter 5: The Uses of Obstruction, David Hills
Chapter 6: Dickinson and Pivoting Thought, Eileen John

About the author: 

Elisabeth Camp is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. She has published extensively on cognitive phenomena and philosophy of mind.

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