Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Emily Dickinson— Fictions, Revisions, and New Criticism

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House
by Emily Dickinson
There's been a Death, in the Opposite House,
As lately as Today --
I know it, by the numb look
Such Houses have -- alway --
The Neighbors rustle in and out --
The Doctor -- drives away --
A Window opens like a Pod --
Abrupt -- mechanically --
Somebody flings a Mattress out --
The Children hurry by --
They wonder if it died -- on that --
I used to -- when a Boy --
The Minister -- goes stiffly in --
As if the House were His --
And He owned all the Mourners -- now --
And little Boys -- besides --
And then the Milliner -- and the Man
Of the Appalling Trade --
To take the measure of the House --
There'll be that Dark Parade --
Of Tassels -- and of Coaches -- soon --
It's easy as a Sign --
The Intuition of the News --
In just a Country Town --

Personal Postscript — Perhaps I will comment upon the foregoing poem, which I stumbled upon today, and many other poems by Emily Dickinson in future postings, but first I must offer this commentary: If you’ve been paying attention to contemporary cultural shifts and the recent films about Emily Dickinson, you might begin to believe that the Belle of Amherst was a twerking, smirking, unhinged lesbian whose poetry was a mere footnote to her hedonistic existence. Do you think I’m inventing fake news? Google a few years of stories and news about Dickinson, and you will understand what I’m saying here. This link is one example. Well, I’m an unrepentant New Critic who is acutely allergic to the latest literary revisions, and I invite you to do the sensible thing: ignore the creative fictions about the poet, and focus instead only on the poems.


  1. good advice... modern critics think everything has already been said by past savants, so they make something up just to get attention... or advancement... pardon this old grouch...

    1. When I was in grad school, I discovered to my dismay that thinking about literature required labels ... English departments needed such labels to justify their pretense of relevance within increasingly dogmatic and political academia .... I flirted with new labels but remain entrenched as a New Critic with a few hard to hide blemishes caused by New Historicism and post-structuralism .... in Dickinson’s case, I see the words as central but allow her biography and contexts some influence .... I think Harold Bloom would grudgingly approve of my minor heresies ...

    2. i never had to fight through that jungle... so i just like some things but not others; i wonder what it would have been like to graduate in English and have a teaching job... i actually don't think i'd be too good at it: lots of disagreements and struggles... i went into a career that fit pretty well, where i didn't have to meet a lot of people, which is how i like it...