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Tingley, Stephanie: "'Volcanoes be in Sicily': How Dickinson Teaches Her Readers to be Global Citizens"

“Volcanoes be in Sicily”: How Dickinson Teaches Her Readers to be Global Citizens

Stephanie Tingley, Youngstown State University

As Kirsten Silva Gruesz notes in her introduction to her digital essay “The Geographical Imagination in Whitman and Dickinson” for the online archive The Classroom Electric (, both Dickinson and her contemporary Walt Whitman “were fascinated by maps, travel stories, and the lure of far-off places.” Dickinson’s own education in geography likely began early with coursework at Amherst Academy. Although the poet’s life and writing are firmly grounded in her beloved New England and she did most of her traveling vicariously (through the stunning power of her imagination and her broad and deep reading), she often plays the role of Preceptor for her readers by encouraging students of her work to think globally across both time and space. My presentation will focus on some of the strategies Dickinson uses to teach us about the wider world beyond her house and yard and some of the print sources (literature, magazines, newspapers) she draws on to do. I am most interested in the ways she encourages readers to consult their own atlases and how these strategies support her own ideas about what poetry should be and do.