illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Start Free Trial

In what way might the work of Emily Dickinson have similarities with that of Longfellow?

Both Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were Transcendentalist poets. Their poetry shares similar themes of a spiritual experience in nature and focus on sensory detail.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote poetry that fits into the Transcendentalist tradition, which means their poems share certain traits common to Transcendentalism.

While every Transcendentalist interpreted the idea a little differently, at its core, they all shared the same belief: that human beings can access knowledge that...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Both Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote poetry that fits into the Transcendentalist tradition, which means their poems share certain traits common to Transcendentalism.

While every Transcendentalist interpreted the idea a little differently, at its core, they all shared the same belief: that human beings can access knowledge that "transcends" the information we get from our five senses. Many Transcendentalists, including Dickinson and Longfellow, connected these moments of insight to nature or natural themes.

For example, Longfellow's belief that a truly "American" literature (one that didn't merely mimic European styles) had to be grounded in the unique natural wonders of the New World. Poems like "The Song of Hiawatha" and even "The Village Blacksmith" seek both to express the sensory details of this natural world while also pointing to something greater, such as a sense of fortitude, adventure or manifest destiny.

Dickinson's poetry focuses on slightly smaller themes, but it shares the attempt to connect natural images to broader emotional or spiritual concerns. Perhaps the best example is her poem "Some keep the Sabbath going to church," which uses natural imagery to show how one can have a spiritual experience from experiencing nature—that experience isn't confined to a church building created by people.

Both poets, however, are tracing the same basic Transcendental theme: nature exists both as a sensory experience and as a means to understand greater truths about ourselves and the universe.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team