Would you apply biographical or historical critical methods to poems by Emily Dickinson? Support your choice by referring to one of her poems.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one has to be careful of applying too much biographical information to the work of poets.  Yet, I believe that one can engage in a greater study of Dickinson the poet through understanding more of Dickinson the person.  Her relationship with death is a fascinating one.  Her poetry did not reflect an overwhelming fear of it.  There is little to suggest this in poems like, "Because I did not stop for death."  Yet, there was much sadness in her life in relation to death, and in particular, watching people whom she loved die, triggering a depression and seclusion from people.  She confessed this to friends:

... some of my friends are gone, and some of my friends are sleeping – sleeping the churchyard sleep – the hour of evening is sad – it was once my study hour – my master has gone to rest, and the open leaf of the book, and the scholar at school alone, make the tears come, and I cannot brush them away; I would not if I could, for they are the only tribute I can pay the departed Humphrey.

The relationship between Dickinson and death is an interesting one.  It is a topic that is revealed in her poetry.  For example, study how she depicts death in "Because I could not stop for death."  In conjunction with the sadness that death's visit caused her, I think that it would be an interesting biographical analysis that can reveal much about her literary work.