How does Emily Dickinson use feminism in literature in her poems?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Emily Dickinson has many personas in her poetry.  Cynthia Griffin Wolff, in "The Many Voices in Dickinson's Poetry" says:

One poem may be delivered in a child's Voice; another in the Voice of a young woman scrutinizing nature and the society in which she makes her place.  Sometimes the Voice is that of a woman self-confidently addressing her lover in a language of passion and sexual desire.  At still other times, the Voice of the verse seems so precariously balanced at the edge of hysteria that even its calmest observations grate like the shriek of dementia.

She goes on to to say:

No manageable set of discrete categories suffices to capture the diversity of discourse, and any attempt to simplify Dickinson's methods does violence to the verse.

So, just as Dickinson wrestles with complex notions of God, giving no consistent view of religion, so too does she wrestle with gender, giving no consistent feminist views.

Her work is paradoxical: it looks like the terse verse of a male.  Women, I guess, we supposed to be chatty social butterflies back then.  With all the dashes and ellipses and telegraphic lines, her poetry seems a far cry from anything from this planet, let alone gender.  All in all, her great theme in her poetry was that of mystery, and I think she would like it best if her socio-political views remained as such.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Emily Dickinson lived in a time when women were expected to play a very different role from the role they play today. Women above a certain class were expected to have thier place in the home, acting as wife,mother,hostess and ornament. They were not often expected or allowed to voice an opinion or independent view on things - especially in areas of perceived male expertise such as politics, career or social issues. Yet many women (including Emily Dickinson) were educated just enough to be suitable companions to their husbands in society events and these women obviously did have lively minds which questioned things they saw, such as injustice. They were denied a voice however, and in poems such as "I'm Nobody, Who Are You?" Emily may have been trying to make a point about the voiceless in society - including women.

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