Abstract

Drawing on evidence from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium, letters, prose fragments, and poems, this article draws attention to the importance of bogs, swamps, and woodland pools to Dickinson’s lifelong conversation with the natural world. Adopting a methodology that combines contemporary thought about gender with an ecocritical concern for how swamps shaped Dickinson’s work, this article argues that wetland places emerge as indispensable to Dickinson’s environmental epistemology and to her poetic explorations of what it feels like to experience the natural world in a fluidly gendered body. Though Dickinson shares her fascination with the swamp with other nineteenth-century writers of the American landscape—including Susan Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry David Thoreau—her creation of multiply-gendered speakers in her swamp-inspired poems offers a provocative revision of the masculine natural historical tradition that her contemporaries write within, particularly that tradition’s reliance on the female body to understand the natural world. These poems do not describe swamps; rather, they describe what it feels like to be a woman nature poet who admires the natural world at its most liminal, illegible, and wild extremes, but feels deep ambivalence toward projecting herself onto it or being identified with it. In doing so, Dickinson’s poems model a radical ecofeminism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-858X
Print ISSN
1059-6879
Pages
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-18
Open Access
No
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