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Bose, Mita: "Emily Dickinson – ‘Enigmatical Sublime’ – an enduring world icon for female dissent and self sufficiency "

Emily Dickinson – ‘Enigmatical Sublime’ – an enduring world icon for female dissent and self sufficiency

Mita Bose, Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, India

Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Soul selects her own Society” proclaims her uncompromising stand towards her patriarchal, conservative, repressive, uncomprehending and judgmental environment. The vast bulk of Dickinson’s astonishingly powerful, passionate, philosophical, puzzling and posthumous poetic oeuvre showcases an indomitable woman who steadfastly comported her life on her own terms without ever giving in to the often misogynistic female stereotypes of nineteenth century Puritan USA.

A present day British actress, Edie Campbell, has portrayed her complete identification with Dickinson through the vicissitudes of life in Emily and I: journey of a portrayal (Black Springs Press, 2005). I, an independent 63 year old Indian woman academic from Delhi, also feel a kinship with Dickinson as a woman who did not bow down to the pressures of a conformist society which metes out mockery, strictures and professional non-recognition to transgressors The secret of Dickinson’s creativity lay in her ability to ignore the opinions of the multitude. The power and freshness of her original poetic style came from the joyful working of a self-assured and unfettered mind.

My paper aims to connect Emily Dickinson’s poems to Virginia Woolf’s dictum that “a woman must have money and a room of her own” to be able to write and investigate why it was imperative for Dickinson to become a recluse at the young age of thirty. By getting rid of the Victorian ‘angel in the house’, Dickinson set herself free from the socially sanctioned female stereotype in order to direct all the force of her brilliant, well-informed mind to the private and public issues of her times. Women’s studies and Dickinson have burgeoned and moved onto non-Anglophone cultures, translations into many languages (including Indian ones) and global dramatic impersonations, to stand testimony to the contemporaneity of her struggle and her triumphs. Thus Dickinson’s mind and verse have succeeded in traversing the distance from nineteenth century New England to the globalized present.