Emily Dickinson : Transcendnetalist or Anti-T?

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Emily Dickinson : Transcendnetalist or Anti-T?

Post  Philly_CS on Fri May 15, 2009 1:02 am

To answer this question, we would have to first establish a few points that need to be clarified. First, what distinguishes a Transcendentalist from the other people, and what does an Anti-Transcendentalist disprove of the Transcendentalists. I think we covered the topic pretty well here, but allow me to review (because I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, everything wrong should be commented upon before I stray off from the correct definition). A Transcendentalist believes in the infinite potential within everyone, and that infinite potential is able to be used and shown on the physical realm through everyone's own Intuition. Emerson said that we are all a piece of God, the higher Being. Since we are all pieces of God, we can also reach infinite potential, since we are all lying on the lap of the immense intelligence. Anti-Transcendentalists acknowledge that humans are capable of being corrupted by sin and evil, and are not as confident in the infinite potential in everyone. Okay, so I got the basics down.

Now, Emerson, on the surface she seems to be a mixture of both (at least, that's what I'm seeing right now). Her numerous poems seem to talk about the collective unconscious (I Never Saw a Moor, I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed, Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church...etc), so either is she able to use her intuition skillfully, or that she read a lot about Transcendentalism. I think it's the former. Now that doesn't mean she's Transcendentalist. The ability to use the intuition is not equated to being a Transcendentalist. However, her other poems seem to show Transcendentalist thoughts of infinite potential and high hopes for everything. "Hope" Is the Thing with Feather demonstrates this ["Hope" is the thing with feathers--/That perches in the soul--/And sings the tune without the words--/And never stops--at all--]. The whole poem seems to be very descriptive of hope, and it would almost seem like Emily has been in such a position before, in the 'chillest land' and the 'strangest Sea,' where she knows that with only a little hope, it can just light up the dark path ahead. Emily, similar to Athena in that packet with the name that has currently escaped me, she, in the poem I Never Saw a Moor, showed how she is more focused on the spiritual, rather than the religious (institutionalized spirituality/church).

However, all this does not mean that she is a complete Transcendentalist. Both of the Transcendentalist and Anti-T ideas can be seen within the poem "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." The top half of the poem, death was not seen as the typical Grim Reaper on Hollywood movies, instead, death was seen as a courteous man that had 'kindly' stopped for the narrator. The carriage not only held the two of them, but also carried immortality. So far, everything was not so grim, in fact, death seems to be inviting. Having death stop for you with immortality on the death carriage hardly seems like the 'death' we are so used to talking about. Then the whole tone changes. The fourth stanza seems to be the instant change from 'happy happy' death to 'not so happy' death. The happy scenes of the third stanza passed the narrator, and now she arrives at the house, or more like the 'final resting place,' which does not seem okay or nice in any way. In the last stanza, the eternity that she thought she was heading toward was not as it seems. If Emily really were a complete Transcendentalist, even the stanzas from four to six would have a bit of hope or at least sense of continuation toward the higher self.

Her Biography also reveals certain aspects about her. Emily in her early years said that she felt wonderful during the short time she found her savior (God). However, this experience did not last long. She attended church for a few years afterwards and then quit completely. After she stopped attending church, she wrote the poem, in 1852, "Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church." This would suggest that she became more involved with the intuition more personally, that she became more spiritual rather than, as I said earlier, religious. It should be noted that her life has been filled with deaths of people close to her. There was the death of a second cousin and close friend that died when Emily was 14. Her high spirits with her town in 1850 was suddenly dampened by the death of the principal of the nearby college, whom she had befriended during her last year of her stay at the Amherst Academy.

Quoted from Emily: "... some of my friends are gone, and some of my friends are sleeping – sleeping the churchyard sleep – the hour of evening is sad – it was once my study hour – my master has gone to rest, and the open leaf of the book, and the scholar at school alone, make the tears come, and I cannot brush them away; I would not if I could, for they are the only tribute I can pay the departed Humphrey."

Her mother's sickness in the mid-1850 seems to be a reason for her eventual seclusion from the rest of the world.

It seems that in these circumstances, it is hard to even consider the infinite potential within everyone. However, it also seems to be after all this, the early 1860s, that she had her most productive writing period. This may say something about how she seems to incorporate both experience and intuition into her writings. Also noting that she is socially active even when physically secluded (mails exchanged between visitors, two thirds of her survival notes and mails came from these exchanges) would suggest that she does not seem to need to be in the society to feel the society. In finding out this point, I find that she is not an Anti-Transcendentalist for being voluntarily secluded.
With all things considered, even though Higginson said that Emily Dickinson made him feel uncomfortably tired, her poetry seem to suggest a special source of power within her, the power that made her write all these poems. Judging from her themes in her poetry, I would say that she is more of a Transcendentalist, though it would be wrong to say that she did not include a bit of Anti-Transcendentalist. In fact, many of her poems explore within the topic of death and immortality. The topic of death would certainly not be used by a 'pure' Transcendentalist (infinite potential). But ultimately her poems very much follow the teachings of Transcendentalist, including the themes of hope, eternity, spirituality, etc.

I cannot believe I didn't read that important sentence about the little room. Ah, someone please wake me up.

I attempted to gather my thoughts about how the little room seems to me as a little bit....well, funny. The "something fishy is going on" funny, not the "hilarious" funny. It would seem that her mental self seems to be reflective on the physical self. As the Secret and the Romanticists say, thoughts create reality. So why do I think this is funny? Well, she has this little room which she can only see a certain perspective on the outer world. Now the interesting thing is, she writes so many poems permeating with wisdom and experience. Then it came to me. I realized that she doesn't need the physical realm to feel what she needs to feel. It's all in her self, it's all that can be obtained from her Intuition. She becomes the transparent eyeball. She becomes one with everything, the egotism that separates Emily from everything else disappears. The physical barrier means nothing to Emily Dickinson now. In fact, the little room is like the eyeball itself. At first, a normal eyeball can only see what's in front of it, similar to the limited view of Emily Dickinson's room. However, once she transcends the physical realm, and starts obtaining from her intuition, the physical eyeball becomes the transparent eyeball. No barrier to block out ideas, no barrier to block out connections she has with the community she lives in, no barrier to block out other experiences and emotions. The walls of her room means nothing now, because the room is everything, and everything is the room. It is the non-local domain in the Quantum Shift packet, it is the pure potential. That is why seclusion doesn't mean a limiting of experience for her, in fact, it means the broadening of emotions and experiences for her. She has more to write about.

Oh my god yes I am finally done
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Philly_CS

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