Beginning with T.W. Higginson, Dickinson’s first public critic and posthumous editor, the prevailing view of the poet has been of a maker of “wonderful strokes and felicities, and yet an incomplete and unsatisfactory whole,” a view that is often based on her perceived strangeness as a person. More recently, critics have argued that Dickinson’s poetry is poorly served by modern methods of practical criticism. Unabashedly practical in its approach, this thesis offers another view of Dickinson, demonstrating how even her most notoriously difficult poems make sense in light of her life and times, with an emphasis on the literary and religious aspects of her culture. The thesis thus provides a defence of Dickinson as a poet and of modern methods of reading poetry more generally.
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1