The essay directions are the following:
As opposed to persuasion, the objective for this essay is to research some element of a literary work or body of work, or to analyze some pattern of development within an author’s work or between two authors or a group of authors.
Patterns of development might consider the regional influence of a series of writers, such as, the American Romantics in New England, the Harlem Renaissance, Modernism or Postmodernism.v
I thought about doing the paper on Emily Dickinson, however, I was told this:
Analysis will be most effective if you focus on a small group of poems, perhaps with the same theme or pattern of development. It's always best to focus most specifically on the primary source(s), as opposed to a broad analysis of a writer's career.
Can you help me to try and figure out what this means and perhaps a topic?
I believe the point of the response you got is that your proposed topic, Emily Dickinson, does not meet the requirements of the assignment because there is no focus on a particular element or pattern of development in her poetry and because your proposed topic sounds as though it includes a study of Dickinson, rather than a study of her work. I am by no means an expert on Dickinson's poetry, but your research might include reading all of her poetry chronologically to see if there is some pattern of development or to see what elements in her poetry you might want to focus on, for example, her use of extended metaphors. If you do want to focus on Dickinson, you will want to be careful to distinguish between what she actually wrote and how her poetry was sometimes "cleaned up" for publication. My understanding is that there are differences. Certainly, Dickinson's work is worthy of study, to either trace her development as a poet or to focus on some element of her work.