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The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

1. Introduction: Reading Dickinson

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About this Lecture


While the myth of Emily Dickinson is that of an odd and inaccessible genius, she was in reality an educated and engaged poet, a thoughtful philosopher, and a brilliant Romantic ironist, who experimented with different points of view. In this module, we explore Dickinson's interest in seeing more than one side of the story with her poem 'We see — Comparatively —' (524).


In this course, Dr Linda Freedman (University College, London) explores the poetry of the 19th-century American poet, Emily Dickinson. The course begins with an introduction to Emily Dickinson herself, dispelling the myth that she was a an inaccessible recluse, in favour of the reality of an educated an engaged poet, a thoughtful philosopher and a brilliant Romantic ironist. In the rest of the course, we explore Dickinson's poetry through four key themes: in the second module, we think about her attitudes to the conflicting forces of faith and doubt; in the third, we think about her engagement with the ideas of consciousness; in the fourth, we consider the tendency for Dickinson to make use of different personae in her poetry; in the fifth, we explore the theme of death and the unknown; and in the sixth, we explore Dickinson's engagement with the ideas of inspiration and creativity.

In each module, themes and ideas are demonstrated by a close reading of one or more poems, including: 'We see — Comparatively —' (534), 'This World is not Conclusion' (373), 'Me from Myself – to banish' (642), 'One need not be a chamber – to be Haunted', 'I'm Nobody! Who are you?' (260), 'I'm ceded — I've stopped being Theirs —' (508), 'There's been a Death, in the Opposite House' (389), 'Because I could not stop for Death —' (712), 'I'm ceded — I've stopped being Theirs —' (508), 'There's been a Death, in the Opposite House' (389), 'Because I could not stop for Death —' (712), 'Must be a Wo –', and 'There's a certain Slant of light' (320).


Linda Freedman is a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford (BA Hons 2.1 in 2003) and King’s College London (MA with Distinction in 2004).

She won an AHRC award to compete a doctoral dissertation on Emily Dickinson in 2004 and completed her PhD at King's in 2007.

Between 2008 and 2011 she held the Keasbey Research Fellowship in American Studies at Selwyn College, Cambridge. In 2012 she took up a permanent lectureship at UCL.

Linda teaches and researches nineteenth and twentieth-century British and American literature. She has a particular interest in transatlantic connections and the relationship between literature, theology and the visual arts.

Her first book, on Emily Dickinson and the Religious Imagination, explored the tensions and affinities between readings in poetry and readings in theology.

She is currently writing a book about William Blake and America. This takes in literary and cultural reception and engages with questions about myth-making, politics and identity-formation.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Freedman, L. (2018, August 15). The Poetry of Emily Dickinson - Introduction: Reading Dickinson [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Freedman, L. "The Poetry of Emily Dickinson – Introduction: Reading Dickinson." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,