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Dickinson's poetry remains an enigma for contemporary readers and scholars because she maintained such a reclusive life as a poet. The ambiguity of her personal and professional life reflects the uncertainty in her poetry, and her refusal to publish much of her work in her lifetime further obscures concrete readings of her poems. However, she did prepare her poetry in the form of manuscript books for future readers. Unlike other authors, Dickinson offered no guidelines on how to approach her work. This lack of guidance has created a constant struggle of interpreting Dickinson's poetry, and to try a resolve this issue we look to read her poems in the context of their manuscript. The links between different poems in these collections help illuminate our understanding of individual poems within. She tackles issues like power from a variety of points of view. Reading a poem like "A nearness to Tremendousness" in the context of its entire manuscript begins to offer new ways to approach the poem's meaning and to shape our interpretation. The original poem of "A nearness to Tremendousness" initially reads as a speaker investigating the cost of greatness, affliction, and discontent with life's need for variety. However, the accompanying fascicle reveals how the ideas of success's cost applies to a variety of topics, such as religion, love, and publication. For Dickinson, approaching power brought on a certain level of agony, and reading all the poems in the manuscript together reveals how the idea of power applies to many aspects of life and death.
Utah State University
English Language and Literature
Quigley, Isabelle; Smith, Westin; and Dutkiewicz, Sariah, "Power and Pain: Dickinson's Approach to the Sublime" (2020). Fall Student Research Symposium 2020. 70.