This essay argues that Emily Dickinson conceives of the geographical border of the U.S. and Latin America in tandem with her desires for queer forms of belonging and intimacy untethered to the U.S. nation-state proper. It draws on a number of Dickinson's romantic letter-poems to her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert, in which she deploys references to Latin America. In her Latin American landscapes, Dickinson imagines an exotic space where (1) she and Susan can enjoy each other's erotic companionship; and (2) they are allowed the status of mutually sovereign queens and conquistadores, not merely the status of democratic citizens. These personae are both sovereign and foreign: sovereign because Dickinson positions herself and Susan as rulers rather than subjects or even citizen-subjects, and foreign because the self- sovereignty she imagines is withheld from her in the U.S. domestic sphere. This essay shows how Dickinson's longing for an erotic and political "otherwise" tests the limits of citizenship in the mid- to late-nineteenth century U.S., even as it adopts the discourses of imperial conquest.


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pp. 24-44
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