Emily Dickinson on the Addictive Process Essay examples

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Emily Dickinson on the Addictive Process

Awareness of Emily Dickinson has grown and deepened over the course of the twentieth century such that the "delightful" andplatitude-laden verses, as they were initially viewed, have provento be rich, often ironic, highly complex explorations of one poet'ssubjectivity. Dickinson's poetry today challenges us to confrontaspects of our own inner processes in relation to psychologicalpain, death, the world and possible -- though not undoubted --transcendence of it, and frustrated desire, to name just a few ofthe themes. The emergence of discourse on addictions, both tosubstances and to modes of behavior, gives us a framework in whichwe can newly assess one of Dickinson's poems, and even though
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Her poetry, in many instances,chronicles the tension between desire and frustration -- bothwilled and externally imposed -- in the context of her cloisteredconsciousness. Again, although Wells's self indulgence has becomeincreasingly normative for our society, Dickinson's fine-tunedawareness of the inevitable frustrations of such a pursuit has muchto say to us in relation to our experience.

Emily Dickinson's two-quatrain poem "The Heart asks Pleasure --first --" from fascicle 25, H 89 in the Houghton Librarynumeration, and 536 in Thomas H. Johnson's edition of theComplete Poems -- presents the reader with a brief yetcomplete outline of a subjective process that has inspired manyinterpretations as to how that process applies to either EmilyDickinson's life experience or the subjective evolution of people'sindividual consciousnesses in general. I would like to add onemore model to this interpretive repertory, suggesting that theconcision and relative abstraction characteristic of the poem makeof it a "deep structure" -- used in a sense other than those ofClaude Lévi-Strauss or Noam Chomsky -- that is multivalent;resisting exclusive, reductionistic interpretation. In addition,following Susan Howe's practice of looking closely into NoahWebster's dictionary, I would like to tie the poem to its

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