Emily Dickinson: Suggested Reading

Year

2000

Collected Poems

Johnson, Thomas H., ed. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960. The definitive collected poems, with restoration to the original punctuation and capitalization, arranged, as much as possible, in chronological order.

Franklin, R.W., ed. The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press/Harvard University, 1981. The most recent incarnation of Dickinson’s poems, presented as she wrote them, with all their variants of punctuation, capitalization, and arrangements on the page. Many do not fall into such neat hymn patterns as earlier publications suggested.

Biography and Letters

Habegger, Alfred. My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. Modern Library: New York, 2001. This recent biography includes the significant feminist scholarship accrued since Richard B. Sewall’s lauded 1972 biography, and is worth reading for this perspective as well as a devotion to overlooked Dickinson poems.

Howe, Susan. My Emily Dickinson. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, California: 1986. A personal, poetic, and accessible entrance into the world of Emily Dickinson that mixes biography and criticism.

Johnson, Thomas H., ed. Emily Dickinson Selected Letters. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971. Edited by Thomas Johnson, who compiled the definitive collected poems, these letters show an astounding variety of wit, poetics, and personality, giving us perhaps the truest biography—though, following her own rule, she chose in the many letters of her lifetime to “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,” revealing more moods and modes of thought than concrete biographical detail.

Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1972. Winner of the National Book Award. Widely considered to be the best biography for accuracy and richness of biographical detail.

Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. Emily Dickinson. Perseus Books: New York, 1986. A good critical biography and exploration of the intersection between her life and works.

Criticism

Martin, Wendy, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2002. A collection of essays by notable Dickinson scholars that address historical, thematic, and poetic issues over the scope of her poetry.

Farr, Judith, ed. Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Articles. New Century Views: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1996. A collection of essays, mostly focused on Dickinson’s poetics.

Anderson, Charles R. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1960. A classic critical work on Dickinson’s poems that explores what Anderson believes to be the "major" poems from various angles such as "wit," "circumference," and "process."

Electronic

Translating Emily: Digitally Re-Presenting Fascicle 16. Traces historical publishing variants of an entire fascicle and presents a scanned version of the pages. A great way to study the regularization of the dash in a handful of poems.

Suggested Poems

After great pain, a formal feeling comes (352)
Because I could not stop for Death (712)
Fame is a fickle food (1659)
I cannot live with You (640)
I dwell in possibility (657)
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (280)
I heard a Fly buzz (465)
I measure every Grief I meet (561)
I taste a liquor never brewed (214)
I'm Nobody! Who are you? (288)
The Soul selects her own Society (303)
The Soul unto itself (683)
There's a certain Slant of light (258)
They shut me up in Prose (613)
To make a prairie (1755)
What Soft Cherubic Creatures (401)
We play at Paste (320)

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