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Lecture 32-36

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Topics for Further Consideration:

1. Summarize the role of consciousness in Dickinson's poetry.

The consciousness through which we attribute meaning to the physical world is different from an ordinary consciousness. While the image of the sky enters into the brain and the brain identifies it as being the sky 'with ease-/, 'You' is put aside. The ordinary everyday identity 'you' is detached from this state of consciousness. The 'you' is excluded; therefore it is a different consciousness that is 'involved' in this process. In this state of mind, there is no subject-object split. The world becomes entirely subjective.

The idea of the mind in Emily Dickinson's poems is usually divided into two states of consciousness: one is the state of being aware of the external existence, that is the existence which is out of the self, and the other is the state of being focused on the inner self as being apart from the outer world. This dualism is a common theme in Emily Dickinson's poems. Emily Dickinson not only expresses the dualism between the spiritual and the physical world (or between meaning and form) but also she emphasizes the indivisible relationship between the opposites. Emily Dickinson's poems, such as poem "939" and poem "547", deal with the state of being closed to the external world. The setting in these poems is the poet's inner world and the words she expresses are the outcomes of an insight. But the central ideas in the poems "632" and "1047" take the concept of dualism one step further and explain how the opposites are identified with each other and how the conscious stands for the ideal 'God' or 'oneness' by containing, and therefore by uniting the opposites in itself.

The brain contains the outer world as represented by the sea and the sky. This means that the brain has the ability to create an image of the outer world in itself. Finally, God, as the supreme representator of the universal order is connected to the human mind. This state of connection is both for Emerson, as he calls it the 'over-soul', and for Emily Dickinson a higher cosmic consciousness which provides the ability to unite meaning and form and to emerge to a poetic creative state where the sound becomes a syllable and the brain becomes the God.

2. Explain how you would go about reconciling the view of Dickinson as demure and wren-like with the imagery of violence and sadomasochism that we find in so many of her poems.

Emily Dickinson is the 19th century's greatest surprise. Looking like Walt Whitman's opposite number in virtually every conceivable respect, the reclusive virginal figure dressed in white, who never leaves her father's house in Amherst, has captured the imagination in ways that few other poets can claimreligious poet in the Puritan tradition, poet of the Romantic school, proto-feminist poet, first poet of modernism, precursor of postmodernismthe list goes on. Like Whitman, she is more various than we have thought, and like Whitman, the more we read her work, the more sibylline she often appears. Some of her finest lyrics have a Romantic purity that matches Wordsworth, as if she were an inhabitant of nature on the same level as the woods and the birds and squirrels. Yet other, more complex poems signal her estrangement from the natural scene, her (already modern) sense of living in and through consciousness, ever at a distance from reality. Still other pieces speak to us about death in ways that are unheard-of, from vantage points that seem impossible. And there are the splendid outbreaks of rage and passion about being a woman in a man's world.

The first entails poems of breathtaking immediacy, in which she delivers the natural world fresh and quivering for our inspection and delight, and we easily see this "at-home-ness" as a form of Eden. Her second style is characterized by her famous adage, "tell it slant." These pieces are inferential to the point of madness, in that we see Dickinson establishing a complex, highly original set of correspondence between natural events and human lives. In these haunting lyrics, we witness a new and rich notation of experience, and our own deciphering powers are tested as we move from physical scene (which is shown) to intellectual significance.

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