Emily Dickinson: Poetics in Context
This book re-assesses Dickinson's manuscripts,
style, and statements to arrive at a historically appropriate conception of poetics. It compares her composition practices,
such as variant generation and writing on already-marked scraps, with those of her peers in nineteenth-century American popular
manuscript culture, tracing them to the pervasive influence of Scottish Common Sense philosophy, Hume's scepticism, and associationism
in philosophy of mind and early neuroscience. The argument consults the archives and considers Dickinson's reading, in and
out of school, in philosophy, rhetoric, and semiotic theory, as well as her training in inductive science and her familiarity
with ideas about electricity, evolution, emotion, sympathy, and the brain. Combining close readings of poems with contextualizing
information about contemporary conflicts in intellectual history, the book contends that Dickinson takes the making of poems
to be her philosophical praxis. It depicts a Dickinson committed to thinking about the physical constitution of human consciousness
and the historicity and materiality of one of its chief modes, language.
1. The manuscript variants: semiotic theories
in conflict; 2. Dwelling in the sign: associationist accounts of perception; 3. Lightning in the mind: Dickinson's sympathetic
poetics; 4. 'Elate philosopher': thinking in the body; 5. The 'relict of a friend' and associative inscription.
formulates her poetics in the context of popular manuscript practices, rhetoric, philosophy, and science in the American nineteenth