Dickinson’s poetry describes complex and interdependent structures of power and gender, portraying them as highly dynamic. Moving from Dickinson’s own characterization of the word power to poems negotiating dominance and control in relationships between two participants, the article argues that Dickinson anticipates later theories on power. Dickinson exposes hierarchies to be arbitrary and reveals an understanding of power that is characterized by mobility, flexibility, and, above all, relativity. Inequalities are created in collaboration between participants. This view allows for an understanding of domination and subordination as role play and consequently as reciprocal. By letting her speakers playfully switching roles, Dickinson reveals gender as well as other hierarchal positions to be mere ascriptions, portraying them as interchangeable and mutual. Such an understanding of power is put into theory by Foucault, declaring all hierarchies to be effects of power relations. The article highlights in particular space as a factor in power relationships as Dickinson conceptualizes them, showing interesting parallels to Foucault’s theory that links power relations to a “sphere,” and going beyond declaring space to be a determiner of the relativity of power. Dickinson portrays space as a dynamic phenomenon lacking concrete boundaries, declaring power to be not only bound to a certain space, but also shaped according to spatial imperatives, being characterized by its potential for perpetual growth and reduction.


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pp. 69-91
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