- Purchase/rental options available:
This essay considers Dickinson’s use of photographic vocabulary and imagery as informative to her larger canon’s aesthetic goals, particularly her separation of the biographical self from the lyric first-person. Dickinson’s consideration of photography makes up only a small part of her writing on the visual arts more broadly, but it is clearly distinct from her competitive attitude toward painting. Photography in Dickinson’s canon stands apart from this traditional art in that she represents it as a natural force, divorced from artistic choice and calculation. A close examination of Dickinson’s letters and poems shows that Dickinson approaches this natural artistry not only with personal alarm, as her letters seem to emphasize, but also as a model for her own representation. By examining “The Trees like Tassels - hit - and swung -” (Fr523), “The Soul’s distinct connection” (Fr901), and “How the old Mountains drip with Sunset” (Fr327), the essay argues that photography—or the properties and discourse of photography—offers the poet a model for art that resists the emphasis on individual authorship fostered by painting.