Barnstone, Aliki. Changing Rapture: Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Development. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2006. A study of Dickinson’s poetry that challenges the notion that she wrote at the same level and in the same style throughout her career. This work chronicles her progression as a writer and breaks her poetry into four distinct stages that exemplify her growth and changing style from youth through old age.
Boruch, Marianne. “Dickinson Descending.” The Georgia Review 40 (1986): 863-877. Boruch, a gifted writer and poet, pays tribute to Dickinson in this lively, conversational discussion. She criticizes the parasitic “cottage industry” that feeds off speculative details of Dickinson’s life and praises and explains Dickinson’s heavy use of dashes. Includes a good explication of “I Heard A Fly Buzz” and notes to other criticism throughout. Contagious interests and excellent writing.
Carruth, Hayden. “Emily Dickinson’s Unexpectedness.” Ironwood 14 (1986): 51-57. This essay, one of seven in a special Dickinson issue, declares Dickinson’s significance in Western literature and urges readers to read her as a poet, without constant reference to useless biographical information. Carruth explains four poems with great skill and sincerity, without overusing intellectual jargon.
Dickenson, Donna. Emily Dickinson. Oxford, England: Berg, 1985. A well-researched and accessible literary biography meant to fill the gap between the detailed scholarly criticism and the outdated popular image of Dickinson as the lovelorn recluse. The author does not try to make the poet’s life explain her poetry, nor does she stretch the poetry to fit the life. The notes after each chapter indicate useful avenues for further study.
Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1960. The text of the three-volume edition with the variant readings omitted.
Dickinson, Emily. The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958. The definitive editions of Dickinson’s poetry and letters. They have been arranged in the most accurate chronological order possible and numbered. In 1890, the first collection of Dickinson’s poems was brought out by Mabel Loomis Todd and Higginson, with two more volumes in 1891 and 1896, all in disorderly, random selections, with gross editorial violations of the poet’s spelling and syntax. Johnson has therefore done an invaluable service to American literary scholarship by taking Dickinson’s jottings, scribbles, and semifinal drafts and sorting them out. Even so, his choices of alternative language have sometimes been questioned by other Dickinson specialists.
Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1955. “Including variant readings critically compared with all known manuscripts.”
Eberwein, Jane Donahue. An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. Edited by a founding board member of the Emily Dickinson International Society as well as a professor of English. Covers a wide range of topics, from people important in Dickinson’s life to her stylistic traits.
Farr, Judith. The Passion of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Ferlazzo, Paul, ed. Critical Essays on Emily Dickinson. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984. This collection, edited and introduced by a leading Dickinson scholar, contains thirty-two essays that range in publication date from 1890 (Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s “Preface to Poems by Emily Dickinson”) to 1984. Includes a solid gathering of writings by well-known critics, Dickinson scholars, and both nineteenth century and contemporary fellow poets. A brief, comprehensive, and well-documented survey, with two essays written especially for the collection.
Grabher, Gudrun, Roland Hagenbüchle, and Cristanne Miller, ed. The Emily Dickinson Handbook. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998. A collection of up-to-date essays covering Dickinson’s poetry, poetics, and life. Useful reference with extensive bibliography.
Habegger, Alfred. My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. New York: Random House, 2001.
Juhasz, Suzanne, ed. Feminist Critics Read Emily Dickinson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. The title essay is a twenty-page introduction by the editor who explains how feminist criticism can correct some partial or “false” criticism that has always split Dickinson into “woman” and “poet”—elements that should go together. The feminist perspective is based on the assumption that gender informs the nature of art. Supplemented by a bibliography.
MacNeil, Helen. Emily Dickinson. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986. In this short critical biography intended for the general reader, as well as the student or specialist, the author reveals how strongly Dickinson distinguished between oral expression, which is restrained by convention, and written self-expression. Includes a bibliography, an index, and eight pages of plates.
Robinson, John. Emily Dickinson: Looking to Canaan. Winchester, Mass.: Faber & Faber, 1986. Accurate facts, deft insights, and a readable prose style make this volume of the Faber Student Guide series a useful introduction. Robinson reveals a Dickinson who sought to escape from history and time and whose work was satiric, yet defined by Protestant ethics.
Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. 2 vols. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974. By far the most comprehensive Dickinson interpretive biography. Sewall devotes his first volume to Dickinson’s family, his second to her friends, and intertwines her life with both circles with great tact, sympathetic understanding, and impressive learning. The prose is clear and often eloquent. One of the most admirable modern literary biographies.
Sewall, Richard B., ed. Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. A rich and diverse collection of critical essays, displaying an almost bewildering range of interpretive views. Such important critics and scholars as Charles Anderson, R. P. Blackmur, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and George Whicher are represented.
Wineapple, Brenda. White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. New York: Knopf, 2008. Emily Dickinson often sought literary advice from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, sending her poems to him and corresponding with him for twenty-four years. This book provides the history and details of their friendship and the significant role he played in publishing her poetry.
Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. Emily Dickinson. New York: Knopf, 1986.