Humour in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson Analytical Essay by gertrude

Humour in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson
This paper discusses Emily Dickinson's use of humour and joking in her poetry.
# 111899 | 5,149 words | 9 sources | MLA | 2007 | CA
Published on Feb 04, 2009 in Literature (American) , Literature (Poetry)

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In this article, the writer discusses that Emily Dickinson employs humour thematically in her poetry, but she also constructs the form of some of her poems in such a way as to mirror the rhythm and meter of jokes. The writer also points out that in some of Dickinson's poetry, form becomes an oblique way of articulating an often subversive truth. Dickinson also employs humour or the theme of joking and jest in her poetry thematically, going so far as to use the idea of joking as the central theme of several poems. The writer maintains that humour seems to be for Dickinson a way of articulating a subversive truth that often stems from relationships of power. The writer concludes that Dickinson's use of form and theme tie together humour theory and feminist scholarship to create a poetics of subversion through slantness that has perhaps not been attended to with the depth it warrants. The writer further suggests that brevity, as we know, is the soul of Dickinson, but wit is her weapon.

From the Paper:

"That "I know that He exists" contains throughout the poem the language of finance is, as we will see later in "Surgeons must be very careful" a way of further contextualizing power relations in terms of gender. The language of finance is decidedly male. As close as Dickinson was to her father and brother and their affairs, however, Dickinson would have been well-versed in such terminology. Economic terms appear throughout the poem. In the last two lines of the first stanza, "He has hid his rare life / From our gross eyes." "Gross" can have several connotations, all of which work in "I know that He exists." At first without reading through the entire poem "gross" seems to refer to size. "Our gross eyes" paints a picture of childlike, wide-eyed wonder that accompanies meeting the awesome. "Gross" could also function as an indication of number; "our gross eyes" could be not just "our" eyes in the sense of each of us as the singular reader, but instead all of us as a mass noun. In the context of the other financial terminology used in the poem, however, it seems as if "gross" functions in the sense of what Webster's defines as "before any deductions" as in "gross income." The "gross eyes" of the living in the poem have not yet met the point at which the deduction has taken place. The metaphorical deduction takes place at the point of death."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Franklin, R.W., ed. The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Belknap P, 1981.
  • ---., ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2003.
  • Johnson, Thomas H., ed. Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters. Cambridge: Belknap P, 2002.
  • Juhasz, Suzanne, Cristanne Miller and Martha Nell Smith. Comic Power in Emily Dickinson. Austin: U of Texas P, 1993.
  • Miller, Cristanne. "Dickinson's Experimental Grammar: Nouns and Verbs". Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Judith Farr. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996. 173-186.

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