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encomium helen essay

encomium helen essayEncomium helen essay -In fact, this is one of the ceaseless themes of Sewall’s biography, beginning with the first chapter on “The Problem of the Biographer.” As he says near the end of the book in one of the theme’s many restatements: “The whole truth about Emily Dickinson will elude us always; she seems almost willfully to have seen to that.” She has frustrated “the prying eye of the biographer,” and the words Sewall regularly uses to refer to his subject’s elusiveness—mists, veils, enigmas, clues, hints— remind us of the modesty and tentativeness of his enterprise.Despite the dearth of evidence for a Dickinson-Wadsworth romance, Johnson gives it a crucial position in his account of the poet.The difficulty in understanding her development is compounded by the fact that, as with Shakespeare’s “lost years” (between his departure from Stratford and his appearance as a successful London playwright), the beginning of her poetic productivity coincides with the period during which least is known about her.He asserts—with a vagueness that is dismaying given the dimness of the relationship, the brilliance of Dickinson’s writings, and his long and deep familiarity with them—that Wadsworth “stirred her talents into creative activity and in fact made her a poet.In both cases, too, the poet’s apparent lack of will to publish—the posthumous publication of half of Shakespeare’s work and virtually all of Dickinson’s—has added textual uncertainties and questions of intention to the whole boggy swamp of speculation.Often, they are considered distinct from eulogies, because they praise living people. Actually, as most Sophistic writing goes, the praise of Helen serves an entirely different purpose than really praising the woman (of Trojan War fame).Her idiom is one of “subjectlessness,” or—to put it another way, and he often does—she “had no subject, least of all reality.” Three times Porter sums up in itemized form Dickinson’s defects.To a certain extent, one might say that Richard Sewall’s biography of the poet operates on the same principle (though not for heuristic reasons but for lack of opportunity for the full dazzling view).David Porter recently wrote, “The seclusion chose the art, rather than the artist the seclusion.” Of Emily Dickinson, it is usually said that she did not develop. Lush theories have grown up around the figure of Emily Dickinson, and they tend to obscure the poet herself from view.Mossberg’s generalizations are, however, more interesting than her often maladroit handling of particular texts.Dickinson-the-poet was not made by Wadsworth or another lover (Cody regards the lover as a fantasy), or by Emerson, or by the Connecticut Valley and Edwardian Puritanism.His attention to Dickinson’s childhood and his refutation of the popular 1950’s and 60’s view that (as Ransom put it) “all her disabilities worked to her advantage” help to destabilize and complicate the static image of the poet.Barbara Antonina Clarke Mossberg’s (1982) examines openly the situation not only of a woman writer but of one who remained a daughter at home all her life.Dickinson knew Emerson’s poems, and at least some of his essays.With its outlandish character, cramped syntax, semantic grandiosities, and lexical violations, it is a language ready to collapse into chaos.) In 1960 Archibald Macleish was willing to confess that “most of us are half in love with this girl we call by her first name, and read with scorn Colonel Higginson’s description of her as a “plain, shy little person . .without a single good feature.” But gallantry doesn’t alter Dickinson’s appearance or the fact that it mattered more than, say, Blake’s unprepossessing appearance did.But if woman and poet are a suspect combination, virgin and poet are even more so.This Dickinson is no Emily but a committed poet who is highly self-conscious about her status as a woman writer (an attitude for which there is abundant evidence in the poems and letters).He employs negatives with striking frequency to define the poetry.In fact, Gorgias’ methods of praise for Helen are roundly and perhaps justly criticized by the great writing teacher Isocrates, in his work called .encomium helen essayPollitt believes that the lover was Edward Hunt, the first husband of Dickinson’s friend, Helen Hunt Jackson., and in broad stroke definitions, it is the formal practice of writing or speaking words in praise of someone or something.When there were enough of them she would stitch them down the sides together into a packet, like a little book, and put it into the cherry bureau drawer., still cling almost 30 years later to our conception of Emily Dickinson.Students who studied rhetoric in schools led by the Sophists, or by the competing schools of Isocrates and Aristotle, learned how to both create and deliver praise in formal form, just as the modern student of writing today learns how to construct essays and speeches.Karl Keller () cheerfully declares that Dickinson is “a great tease.Instead, it serves as a defense of Helen, not really the intent of encomiums in general, and becomes praise of the ability of language to persuade.The body, for example, is always specifically female (in a poem about committing suicide, “What if I say I shall not wait!She shows us the lovers tête-à-tête discussing some of Hunt’s favorite scientific theories, in a scene which incorporates a remark Hunt actually made about the poet’s dog, Carlo: As they were talking together, Carlo lay on the floor near by, his sober eyes filled with infinite wisdom.Sewall’s massive (1974, recently reissued in a one-volume edition) is in many respects the most impressive portrait of Emily Dickinson so far constructed.But since the late 1970’s there have been an increasing number of studies of the relationship between Dickinson’s femininity and her writing.Such praise has been written about fictional people too, and about animals, so the definition requires some fleshing out.The closed door which faces investigators of Dickinson’s life is commonly eroticized; there is sexual irritation as well as intellectual puzzlement when the curators of her reputation find her impenetrable.But, oddly, Dickinson seems as hard to grasp as ever.It is now necessary to refer to the poet as Dickinson, although for many years and even into the 1970’s she was simply Emily.One was songs or poems composed by poets in praise of a specific thing.The poetry of both has encouraged speculation about the identities of their love objects.But Shakespeare wrote for a public medium, and his artistic development after he emerged as a London playwright is evident. Biography, which Lytton Strachey called “the most delicate and humane of all the branches of writing,” must take an interest in the elementary fact of sex.This biography is the consummate “Everyone’s Emily Dickinson,” with analyses, one by one, of Dickinson’s relationships with friends, advisers, real and putative lovers. But the beginning, middle, and end are not articulated by any dramatic external events; her life can be divided only very roughly into periods.Poems celebrating the beauty of a person, place, or thing can be open to multiple interpretations but often keep strict focus on the praise of something.Articles that are a send up of someone’s life and work, mostly someone still living, present the modern day rhetorical encomium. encomium helen essay Had it been otherwise, we should not have had the poems.” And Thomas Johnson, the editor of Dickinson’s poems and (with Theodora Ward) the letters, largely agrees in his biography of the poet (1955, republished 1980).Dickinson is still being described as an artistic ingenue with little intellectual control over her work, the funnel for a poetic production which was a byproduct of her personal circumstances rather than the deliberate exercise and fulfillment of extraordinary ability.Part of the problem is that absolutely everything in Dickinson’s experience, thought, upbringing, and writing is referred to the fact that she is a Daughter.“Perhaps the most satisfying image of her” to a modern sensibility, wrote John Crowe Ransom, is a variant of the fairy-tale maiden: Our own Cinderella could do without the Prince; she preferred her clergyman [Wadsworth] and he did not take her anywhere.Richard Chase, for example, remarks in ” (Who would not so fear and so wonder?I should love to read you them both—they are very pleasant to me.” That is her warmest general remark on Emerson’s work. Higginson’s wife, calling it “a little Granite Book you can lean upon.” She did not seize an opportunity to meet Emerson when he stayed next door with her brother’s family.She never indicated, as she did with other admired writers, deep interest, or indebtedness, or even antagonism: in fact, she rarely referred to Emerson. Nonetheless, Keller argues, Dickinson, like Whitman, must have been “brought to the boil” by her contact with Emerson: I am suggesting that it was not Emerson’s ideas, certainly not his ideology, that Emily Dickinson experienced, so much as it was Emerson as push, as stimulus, as prophet-motivator, as prime mover, as provocateur—his intended service to any devotee.(Silly as this may seem, Pollitt’s Emily is not so different from Allen Tate’s: “Her very ignorance, her lack of formal intellectual training, preserved her from the risk that imperiled Hawthorne. She can only ”) Rebecca Patterson wrote a book to prove that the man Dickinson loved was a woman, Kate Scott Anthon.Her life, like her poetry, seduces without offering complete satisfaction.” With her “flamboyance” and “wildness,” her cardinal virtue “the Temptation to Excess,” Keller finds it “not hard to imagine her . a hooker.” David Porter, whose second book of Dickinson criticism is (1981), seems more aggravated than teased.Near the bottom of the plausibility scale is the theory of Josephine Pollitt in (1930, republished 1970).Emily Dickinson has been overshadowed by real or imagined influential others, and sometimes entirely blotted out by superimposed archetypes.She wrote to a friend: “I had a letter—and Ralph Emerson’s Poems—a beautiful copy—from Newton the other day.Like many before him, he gives special weight to Emerson’s importance as a contemporary influence (Whicher devotes a chapter to the subject).Neither work sufficiently serves as true praise of Helen, but both works serve as praise of language and thoughts on how rhetoric should be used.Unfortunately, Keller’s American theme requires him to notice only briefly in a last chapter some non-American writers’ whose influence—especially in terms of “push” or “stimulus”—is much more clearly provable: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and the Brontës.The first extensive exploration of her situation as a woman and a poet was John Cody’s psychoanalytic biography, (1971).His work again fails the mark on praising Helen and attacks Gorgias for advocating using speech as a powerful drug that can persuade people to act against their own interest.And in Dickinson’s case it taken an interest, but of the wrong kind.But until recently, the most popular candidate for Dickinson’s beloved was the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, a Philadelphia minister whom she met in 1855.The dog showed a particular liking for the young scientist. encomium helen essay Her apparent constancy in her art and in her life makes her especially susceptible to mythologizing. The most luxuriant growths concern the identity of the man Dickinson loved, a passion inferred from her poetry and three draft letters found among her papers.The other was a specific literary device used by rhetoricians and teachers of rhetoric.At about the time she began to write steadily, she retired from an already modest social life to live in seclusion, producing nearly 1,800 short poems which demonstrate little alteration of scope, subject, or style. There have been at least eight candidates, beginning with the nominees of the poet’s sister Lavinia (George Gould) and her niece (Charles Wadsworth).Porter celebrates Dickinson as a poet who anticipated the modernists, but hers is “the destructive strain in American modernism” (Emerson and Hawthorne were constructive).Attention has focused intently on her personal relationships, and her poetry has frequently been seen as the consequence not of genius, dedication, practice, and revision but as the eruption of a more or less unhappy emotional life.Trembling with nervousness and need, it performs manically on the brink of the final modernity, silence.No, her poetic achievement was due her mother’s “failure as a sufficiently loving and admirable developmental model,” which led to a fruitful psychotic breakdown for the poet.Dickinson’s writing was a compensatory activity, her substitute for the life of a wife and mother.(“Having a baby of her own was desperately important to Emily Dickinson.”) Mrs.Many encomiums are more straightforward, such as St. A speech delivered about an actor receiving a lifetime achievement award usually doesn’t diverge into a speech on something completely different.She busied herself with writing, revising, and sometimes fabulously perfecting those slight but intense pieces; for the eye of the future.Her poems display her striving to perform her role as a “dutiful daughter” even as her powerful, rebellious, ironic sensibility keeps subverting that role and urging her to claim poetic glory.Like Shakespeare whom she read and quoted and passionately admired all her life, Dickinson had a provincial background and a relatively scanty formal education.This tradition continued with Roman rhetoricians and poets, and people will still find them today, some delivered and some written on a variety of subjects.It is disappointing, to say the least, that Emily Dickinson so often seems to be a great writer who is just not quite good enough.She proceeded to take her own self upstairs, where she lived, happy ever after with her memories, her images, and her metaphysics.Her language is “narcissistic,” “coy,” “autosuggestive,” “hermetic,” and “defective.” The garment of style can’t conceal the figure of the frustrated woman: it is a language, one begins to sense, covering hysteria [a word Porter uses repeatedly].The lieutenant [Hunt] turned from Emily, who was fascinated with his ideas and was eagerly trying to understand, and he smilingly remarked, “Your dog understands gravitation.” Indeed, Carlo was a better logician than was his mistress.All of the candidates are implausible for different reasons; the one thing they have in common is that the evidence is sparse.Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to whom she had written for an opinion of her poems in 1862, requested a photograph of her. .”” Dickinson wrote: “[I] am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves.” But Higginson, who had a special interest in sponsoring writing women, was obviously disappointed when he met her.Changing attitudes have now made it incumbent on biographers and critics to avoid the grosser sentimental and romantic effusions and to take Dickinson’s sex seriously. encomium helen essay The difficulty in understanding her development is compounded by the fact that, as with Shakespeare’s “lost years” (between his departure from Stratford and his appearance as a successful London playwright), the beginning of her poetic productivity coincides with the period during which least is known about her. encomium helen essay




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