Daily Archives: November 15, 2019

page 54 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I see the point Howe is making regarding Jonathan Edwards’ isolation from his congregation with ED’s isolation from the rest of society when she remained skeptical of the revivalist movement. She’s aware of a greater truth, something beautiful and virtuous, but its not something that is easily seen, it has to be squinted at is even harder to explain. Revival is easy, staying revived is a lot harder.

page 51 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

This is what I find most interesting about ED, “the immanent consciousness of Separation”, where “each word is a cipher, through its sensible sign another sign hidden” – “Subject and object were fused at that moment, into the immediate feeling of understanding”. Her words live like electrons that can’t be directly observed, but we infer multiple meanings through the matter (and form) of the poem.

page 50 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Edwards’ sermon with all its hellfire is fascinating, not least of all because of how un-God like he makes God seem (at least by modern standards; if anyone even thinks of God anymore). God here is vengeful and itching to throw everyone’s soul into the hottest of hells, but is held back only because he has to. These days God apparently wants you to be rich and vote for CEO’s.

page 49 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I disagree that ED’s decision not to publish – and the shun fame- grew out of a Calvinist theology (even if it’s by the barest of threads). I think she was simply suspicious of fame and of society and mostly she might have worried that being in the world (so to speak) would dilute her poetry. Howe is correct that “Emily Dickinson’s religion was Poetry”, but that means it wasn’t anything else. ED was a social skeptic

I disagree that ED shunned fame because of a Calvinist strain, no matter how threadbare it might be. In saying this it takes away her decision by letting religion be the vehicle, but I don’t think this was her reason to reject fame. I think she saw fame as a road that would dilute her poetry, that being famous was not very original and that she was eternally skeptical of society,

page 47 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

“Grace and Predestination are another contradiction” – I wonder if ED had thought much about this since this is exactly the sort of split / fragmented / contradictory language she loved. If God both offers Grace AND Predestination is real, then how can they co-exist? Perhaps this is a glimmer of insight into her not trusting any of it? ED’s God is above contradiction at the very least.

page 46 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Howe makes an interesting observation in how ED retained strains of Puritanism in that she describes “Puritan theology at its best would tirelessly search God’s secrecy, explore Nature’s hidden meaning,” and though ED wasn’t going as far as to say it was a Christian God running everything, she does see Something in Everything; no acre of creation is devoid of intention of some sort.

page 42 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I like the breakdown of the trope of the captivity narrative, especially how the perseverance does not change the “victim” but brings them back closer to God which, ironically, is no longer found in nature, but in Christian civilization which is at war with nature, as well as the people who live in nature. In other words, it’s all cliche propaganda and people will always be susceptible to this shit.

page 40 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

It’s interesting that ED was living at a time not only when America was split politically (civil war), but also geographically in that still large swaths of the landscape were unexplored and virgin and people like Cotton Mather were saying that wilderness is a sword (presumably attacking the good Christian). America was still new and unknown and struggling to find an identity – just like ED’s poetry.

page 39 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I assume Howe is suggesting that ED is reacting to “the idea that our visible world is a whim and might be dissolved at any time” and that people of her day were willing to show “obedience to a stern and sovereign Absence” which “forged a fanatical energy necessary for survival”. The “obedience to a higher purpose” is plain and simple; ED disagrees, though she does still seem to believe in some sort of spirit.

page 130 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

I’m glad she explored her father’s past since it informs so much of the man he became, why he didn’t want to coddle the children because he knew how cruel the world could be and it’s probably better to prepare the kids then tell them it will be alright. Besides, he wouldn’t have known any better since his own childhood was terrible – how would he know how to raise kids?