She was perhaps the most inscrutable, dazzling, and confounding poet the United States has ever produced. Tucked away in her room, safe in her alabaster chamber, Emily Dickinson crafted lyrics that still defy interpretation, cue the soul to its deep springs, and map the landscape of human emotions: rage to love, chained neediness to drunken freedom. Over eight weeks, we’ll explore her lyric poems in sets, both as she left them at her death in hand-sewn volumes and in thematic units curated to help us understand the curious, devious way she got at the human condition. There will be no set weekly readings. Instead, just come prepared each week to encounter a set of poems that will both define and hide the poet who crafted them.
The required book is THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON: A READING EDITION, edited by R. W. Franklin and published by the Belknap imprint of Harvard University Press. This edition supersedes all previous collections, including the Johnson edition most of used in college, with solid scholarship and an unrelenting pledge to let her speak for herself (rather than “fill in some of the blanks,” as Johnson did). You’ll find this edition at the Bushnell-Sage library through interlibrary loan. Or better yet, obtain your own copy at The Bookloft in Great Barrington, MA, so you can take pen to page in class. Sign up well in advance to reserve a
spot. Then bring this book, an open mind and a cup of coffee—because no doubt there will be cake, too.