This paper explores decomposing matter in Emily Dickinson’s poetry, embracing the ofttimes indistinguishable relations between anthropogenesis and what I refer to as necrogenesis (or a process of becoming whose preconditions are death, disassembly or deterioration). Reading images of vital decay -- specifically mold, oil and coal -- as they appear both within the poems and upon the material conditions of her craft, I situate Dickinson within a nation-wide energy transition from biopolitical harvestings of life (lumber) to the extraction and re-genesis of accumulated, stratigraphically composted death (fossil fuels). Ultimately, I hope to draw out a Dickinson with whom, in the words of Jed Deppman, we can “try to think” in our own geological epoch, when human activity has rendered irreversible impacts on global climate and conditions for planetary life, and we are forced to consider, however uncomfortably, the myriad life that might thrive as result of our own ontological exhaustion.


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pp. 27-47
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