This article discusses Dickinson’s baptismal imagery as a creative and religious topos. Translation is a way of understanding the Puritan sacrament of baptism from its roots in Gospel narrative and Calvinist theology. It becomes the hallmark of Dickinson’s baptism trope as she finds, in the theology of baptism, a metaphor for her own poetic identity, repeatedly translating itself and inhabiting new names. I discuss the importance of Dickinson’s “vail” as a Puritan image of sacramental mediation and a Romantic symbol for the reach of the imagination, and I argue that Dickinson uses the baptismal narratives of sacrificial dying and spiritual rebirth to express the compromise or “vail’ that allows her to harness her poetic power, translating and representing herself anew.


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pp. 25-42
Launched on MUSE
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