This essay analyzes Emily Dickinson's writings about medicine and pain to demonstrate Dickinson's relevance to the field of disability studies. It first reveals that Dickinson was actively engaged with contemporary debates about medical and surgical practices. Dickinson has been doctored extensively: during her lifetime, physicians put her in "prison" (L290) to treat her eye problems and after her death, numerous critics have diagnosed her with various illnesses. This essay criticizes ableist assumptions about Dickinson's bodymind experiences, arguing that Dickinson's writings criticize and satirize medical practitioners' eagerness to numb and eliminate bodily variations such as illness and pain. Dickinson's poetry offers new ways of thinking about disability because it expresses the belief that differences can be explored, appreciated, and cherished rather than corrected. It reveals that pain might be articulated—not in diagnostic, pitying, or pathologizing terms, but in imaginative, metaphorical language that recognizes pain as a destructive but also desirable force.


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pp. 106-132
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