Emily Dickinson Questions for English 222 American Literature, CSU Fullerton

E222 EMILY DICKINSON QUESTIONS, CSU FULLERTON

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EMILY DICKINSON

"320" (Norton Vol. C 97); "340" (Vol. C 99); "448" (Vol. C 102); "479" (Vol. C 102-03); "591" (Vol. C 103-04); "598" (Vol. C 104); "620" (Vol. C 104); "764" (Vol. C 107); "1263" (Vol. C 108); "1668" (Vol. C 108).

320/258. ("There's a certain Slant of light")

1. In "There's a certain Slant of light," what exactly is the "certain Slant of light" referenced? Does it merely reflect the perception of someone in a depressed state of mind, or does it create that feeling in the first place -- what does the poem suggest in this regard? Moreover, what do you understand by the words "internal difference -- / Where the meanings are" in lines 7-8?

340/280. ("I felt a Funeral, in my Brain")

2. What is the role of "reason" in "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain"? What is Dickinson perhaps suggesting about the limits of our ability to know anything about death? Moreover, in what manner does Dickinson represent the inner life or thoughts of her isolated speaker, and what might strike us as odd about that way of representing interiority?

448/449. ("I died for Beauty --")

3. In "I died for Beauty --," the speaker died for beauty, her interlocutor in the next tomb died for Truth, yet the latter says both things are "One." How might we interpret that claim? Are truth and beauty really the same thing, or should the point be interpreted differently? Explain. Moreover, how do the poem's final two lines change the value of the ten lines before them

479/712. ("Because I could not stop for Death --")

4. In "Because I could not stop for Death --," what assumptions and attitudes about the speaker's past as a living being are solicited and perhaps transformed as the carriage and its civil coachman (Death) proceed, passing by various scenes and making their way towards the grave? Why, at the poem's end, does the speaker still feel surprised by the first day of her passing even though it occurred centuries ago?

5. In "Because I could not stop for Death --," what seems to be the point of treating death in such a strangely civil, slow-paced manner, and of employing such an odd figure as a coachman to embody death? How does that differ from treating death as, say, a reaper with a sickle?

591/465. ("I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died --")

6. In "I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died --," why do you think Dickinson she has chosen a buzzing fly to convey the instant of death? How might this poem be a meditation on the thinness of the line between life and death, and on the significance that the living give to death?

598/632. ("The Brain -- is wider than the Sky --")

7. What relationship between human beings and nature, and between human beings and God, does "The Brain -- is wider than the Sky --" posit?

620/435. ("Much Madness is divinest Sense")

8. "Much Madness is divinest Sense" belongs to a tradition of thought about the way we determine who is sane and insane. What is Dickinson's speaker suggesting about the validity of this powerful opposition?

764/754. ("My Life had stood -- a Loaded gun --")

9. In "My Life had stood -- a Loaded gun --," the speaker takes on the perspective of a "loaded gun." It has sometimes been said that the poem deals with an indefinite feeling of rage on the part of a female speaker. Do you read it that way, or some other way? Give your own brief interpretation of this enigmatic poem.

1263/1129. ("Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --")

10. "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant " might well be read as a gloss on Emily Dickinson's poetic style and philosophy. How so? How and why -- does she "tell it slant" rather than simply and directly? What might she be implying about the subjects upon which her poetry dwells?

1668/1624. ("Apparently with no surprise")

11. What vision of nature are we offered in "Apparently with no surprise"? How does this treatment of nature compare to the representations of nature you have come across in other poems by Emily Dickinson or, for that matter, in other poets, such as one of the English romantics?