Abstract

The oxymoron of Emily Dickinson as famous "Nobody," isolated as a poet, belies her generative sense of community in the iconic company of transatlantic "freedom writers," George Eliot and Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom she associates in her poetry and letters. Comparing her attitudes toward homeland authority and leadership with Eliot's Middlemarch and Shelley's prose and sonnets such as "England in 1819," posits Dickinson in a conversation that expresses a shared resistance, a critique of their respective cultures. The symmetry of Dickinson's "We like March - his Shoes are Purple -" (Fr1194) and her effusive identification with "my George Eliot" suggests her reading Middlemarch as illuminating her own experience of a culture repressive of woman's voice and role in civic society. Dickinson could have read Middlemarch in serial format, when she was composing "We like March -" in 1871. Of special interest to scholars is the fact that Dickinson revised this poem years later, but only to the extent of changing two words: the "Adder's Tongue" "presents" to "begets," and bluebirds "exercising" to "buccaneering." Investigating Dickinson's reading of local and international news yields a thesis that Dickinson's "bluebird" poet self is more than a tactical rebellion from a culture demanding "Prose." Rather, she conceives her writing as a bold insurgency rooted in mandates in which political and creative freedoms are inextricable. The mystery of who "We" are in "We like March"—and a world under a "British Sky"—may point to an expatriate sensibility that Dickinson shares with Eliot and Shelley; and, in turn, may locate Dickinson's political aesthetic, clarifying the significance of Emily Dickinson's identity as a self-consciously American writer.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-858X
Print ISSN
1059-6879
Pages
pp. 59-79
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-16
Open Access
No
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