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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

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Activities: Author Activities

Emily Dickinson - Author Questions

Back Back to Emily Dickinson Activities
  1. Comprehension: Notice Dickinson's frequent use of dashes in place of more standard punctuation like commas and periods. Why did she rely so heavily on dashes? How do they affect your experience and understanding of the poems? How would the poems change with different punctuation?

  2. Context: Unlike many of her contemporaries, Dickinson does not write poems with clear moral or ethical messages. Are her poems trying to "teach" us anything? What seems to be the purpose of these poems? Do they make you feel (and if so, feel how)? Do they make you think (and if so, think what)?

  3. Context: Dickinson's most famous poem, #465, draws on the nine-teenth century's fascination with death-bed scenes in literature. Unusually, however, this scene is described from the point-of-view of the deceased. What exactly does the poem's narrator experience, both sensuously and psychologically? How does the fly affect the narrator's experience of death?

  4. Exploration: What might Dickinson mean when she writes "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" (#1129)? Why is there a danger that Truth will blind us unless it "dazzle[s] gradually"? Why does the narrator refer to children in supporting this thesis?

  5. Exploration: What, in poem #258, might "internal difference" mean? What are "the Meanings," and why are they contained in internal difference? Why does the natural experience of a certain winter light provoke reflection on internal difference?

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