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LIT 42 — The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 17—Jun 5
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 30
Unit: 1
Tuition: $400
Instructor(s): Sarah Willburn
Status: Open
7:00—8:50 pm
Apr 17—Jun 5
8 weeks
Drop By
Apr 30
1 Unit
Sarah Willburn
While only ten poems by Emily Dickinson (1830–86) were published during her lifetime, the posthumous publication of her over 1,800 poems has changed the course of American poetry. From the mystique of her very private domestic life, to her treatment of the sublime in the everyday, her works are among the most widely studied poems in the United States and around the globe.

Dickinson’s poetry differs drastically in style, form, and content from her contemporary 19th-century poets such as Whitman and Tennyson. Keenly figurative, her work treats the themes of death, love, nature, and immortality in a highly original style, creating a startling worldview. She arranged much of her poetry into hand-stitched volumes she called fascicles, thus ordering poems not chronologically but rather in terms of their connections. This course will approach Dickinson’s work by reading her most famous poems thematically, to studying her fascicles as units of thought that function beyond an individual poem. We will also counterpoise her poetry to that of other poets that she liked to read: for example, the work on love by her British contemporary, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Finally, the course will serve as an introduction to poetics, providing students with specific techniques to interpret poems in terms of their sound, image, meaning, and audience.

Sarah Willburn, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Stanford

Sarah Willburn has taught courses on 19th-century literature and culture at Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Trinity, Skidmore, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, among others. Her publications include Possessed Victorians and The Ashgate Research Guide to Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism and the Occult. She received a PhD in English from Duke.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Emily Dickinson and R. W. Franklin, The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (ISBN 0-674-01824-9)