Whereas most Western scholars emphasize the rebellious, bold, and highly selfconscious Dickinson, there is another side of her poetry that is illuminated by seeing her affinities with Daoism and Chan Buddhism, and in particular their highly valued qualities of passivity and peace. Words like passive, inactive, or bland, although they sound condemnatory to Western ears, are positive attributes within the context of these Chinese philosophies. Non-desire, non-contention, non-ego, and non-action marked by a detached blandness are illustrated in her image clusters. This essay will highlight this strand of negative wisdom celebrated in some of her poems, both by marking general similarities between Dickinson’s poetry and the teachings of Dao and by developing the idea epitomized by what she calls the “power to die” in “My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - ” (Fr764).


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pp. 65-85
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