Emily Dickinson, one of the most renowned American poets, continues to captivate readers with her unique and enigmatic style. Her poetry, characterised by its brevity, unconventional punctuation, and deep introspection, has made her a literary icon. When writing an essay on Emily Dickinson, it’s crucial to consider the historical and cultural context in which she lived.

This blog post will explore five key context points to help you craft a well-informed and insightful essay on her work.

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The 19th-century American society: To fully comprehend Dickinson’s poetry, it’s essential to understand the social, cultural, and literary climate of 19th-century America. This period was marked by significant historical events such as the American Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. The societal norms, religious beliefs, and gender roles of the time influenced Dickinson’s writing, which often reflected her introspection, questioning of faith, and exploration of identity.

Dickinson’s reclusive life: Emily Dickinson was famously reclusive, choosing to live much of her life in seclusion in her family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Understanding her isolated lifestyle and the reasons behind it is crucial for interpreting her poetry. Dickinson’s seclusion allowed her the time and space for introspection, contemplation, and writing, and it also shaped her unique poetic style.

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Literary influences and contemporaries: Dickinson was well-read and drew inspiration from various literary traditions and authors. She was particularly influenced by the works of British Romantic poets, such as William Wordsworth and John Keats, as well as metaphysical poets like John Donne. Exploring these influences and understanding how Dickinson’s poetry both diverged from and aligned with contemporary literary trends can provide valuable insights for your essay.

Dickinson’s publishing and reception: During her lifetime, Dickinson published very few poems, with most of her work remaining unpublished until after her death. It wasn’t until the posthumous publication of her poetry in the 1890s that her genius began to be recognised. Considering the reception of Dickinson’s poetry and how it evolved over time adds another layer of context to your essay. How did her work challenge the norms of the time, and how has it been appreciated and studied in the years since?

Dickinson’s legacy and impact: Lastly, exploring the lasting impact of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is crucial to understanding her significance in the literary canon. Despite her relatively limited public recognition during her lifetime, her work has since influenced countless poets and continues to resonate with readers today. Understanding her place in literary history and her ongoing relevance can help you articulate the broader implications of her poetry in your essay.

When writing an essay on Emily Dickinson, delving into the context surrounding her life and work is essential. By considering 19th-century American society, her reclusive life, literary influences, publishing history, and legacy, you can provide a comprehensive analysis of her poetry. These key context points will enable you to engage deeply with her work, uncover hidden meanings, and contribute to the ongoing appreciation of Emily Dickinson as one of America’s greatest poets.

Remember, Dickinson’s poetry is a window into her world, and by understanding the context, we can truly appreciate the brilliance and lasting impact of her work.