In this discussion, you will read three poems by Emily Dickinson, one of the finest and most famous American poets. Among other topics, you will explore some of the ways that Dickinson views the relationships between men and women.
Upon successful completion of this assignment you will be able to:
- Identify examples of symbols and diction.
- Explain how various literary devices are used to communicate truths about humankind in works of poetry.
- Apply discoveries about human nature to your own personal and/or professional life.
- Bible: https://www.biblegateway.com
- Textbook: The Pearson Custom Introduction to Literature
- File: Literary Glossary (4.3)
- File: Surface & Subversive Close Reading of “Tell all the Truth”
Read the headnote on Emily Dickson (pp. 234-239).
- Read “Tell all the Truth” (p. 243). What do you think she means by “tell it slant?”
- What do you think the first stanza is telling the reader about the nature of truth, or about human nature?
- What is she saying in the second stanza about truth or about human nature?
- One of the creative strengths of the poetry of Dickinson—who is often thought of as a subversive writer—is that many of her poems can be read on two levels. On the surface, the poem seems to be about truth and human nature, but, for feminists, on a subversive (secretive) level, the poem can also be read as resisting the views of “male-dominated” culture. Review the two potential close readings of this poem in the Surface Reading & Subversive Reading link (above). Do you think Dickinson meant for the poem to be read this way? Explain your answer.
- Based on your own understanding of the poem and your opinion of the close readings, compose a thesis for “Tell all the Truth” using the following formula: “In Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Tell all the Truth,” she uses (specific literary device) to show that (universal truth).
- Read “The Daisy follows soft the Sun” (p. 242).
- What natural event is being described in the first stanza, and how does the daisy react to it?
- What question does the sun ask the daisy in the first stanza, and what is the daisy’s answer?
- Whom do you think the pronouns “We” and “Thou” refer to in the second stanza?
- What (or whom) do you think the daisy represents? Explain your reasoning with specific reference to the text.
- What (or whom) do you think the sun represents? Explain your reasoning with specific reference to the text.
- What seems to be the sun’s attitude toward the daisy? Include specific reference to the text for support.
- What seems to be the daisy’s attitude toward the sun? Include specific reference to the text for support.
- Some scholars see this poem as a subversive proclamation of the validity of women poets, while others see it as a proclamation of Dickinson’s love for a married man. Does either interpretation seem valid to you, or do you think the poem has another message (expression of universal truth)? Explain your answer with specific reference to the text.
- Read “Essential Oils—are wrung” (p. 244). Complete a close reading of the surface or literal level of the poem, assuming that this literal level is a rather straightforward description of the process for producing perfume (“attar”).
- What is emphasized about the process of creating perfume from flowers in the first stanza? Include specific reference to the text for support.
- What point is made about the rose and the perfume in the second stanza? Include specific reference to the text for support.
- Explain what you believe each of these symbols may stand for: the sun, the rose, the perfume.
- Based on your interpretations of the symbols, what universal truth does the poem reveal?
- Pick one of the poems above and explain how the universal truth it reveals can be observed or applied to your personal experience or to the story of a well-known person.