How does Emily Dickinson reflect Romantic thinking in her writing?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that a case can be made for Dickinson representing Romantic thinking in a couple of ways.  The first would be that her life as one that sought privacy helps to enhance the subjectivity that is both intrinsic to her poetry as well as the tenets of Romanticism.  Dickinson did not believe in adhering to socially accepted norms.  She sought individuality and her work places a high primacy on the idea of subjective experience.  These are Romantic tendencies.  At the same time, I think that one can find a wide sense of thought and reflection which is a part of her writing.  Dickinson demonstrated an understanding that was not afraid of contemplating challenging issues such as death, identity, and primary motivation in consciousness.  These are conditions that are found in her poetry, but also in Romantic thought.  Romantic thinkers easily pondered the larger issues of being.  Another Romantic idea that is evident in the poetry of Emily Dickinson is that she demonstrated a healthy disregard for the technical aspects of poetry.  Her work features a liberation from what is standard understanding of poetry and poetic devices:

[In Dickinson's poetry] there is a great deal of grammatical irregularity; standard punctuation is largely replaced by the dash; nouns and verbs are sometimes used interchangeably; normal syntax is often disrupted...

Wordsworth and other Romantic poets were more driven by the feeling in emotion and sought to break free from established "rules" of poetry.  The elimination of "ornamentation" and the desire to establish poetry as the "spontaneous overflow of emotions" is of the utmost of importance to Romanticism.  Dickinson embodies this in her work.


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