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Chapter 5 - Bind Me – I Still Can Sing

Emily Dickinson at the Boundaries of Lyric

from Part II - The Songs of Slavery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

Andrea Brady
Affiliation:
Queen Mary University of London
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Summary

The tropes of bondage that pervade Emily Dickinson’s lyric poems were significant to contemporary American accounts of the lyric and its relation to individual liberty. Dickinson is often held up as the paradigmatic lyric poet: reclusive, but unbounded in her imagination; pure voice, speaking on the other side of the door. Dickinson herself returns endlessly to tropes of the prison, chains and bonds. At times she even expresses a sadistic delight in imagining the torture of others. The chapter argues that, given the convulsions of her time and her family’s direct political engagements with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Fugitive Slave Act and the Civil War, it is surprising that slavery is almost entirely absent from Dickinson’s poetry. The chapter reflects on the tropes of incarceration or bondage in Dickinson’s poetics, to consider what the missing slave means for the model of lyric that she has come to represent.

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Chapter
Information
Poetry and Bondage
A History and Theory of Lyric Constraint
, pp. 151 - 179
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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