Claire’s Bridge to the Blog


Today’s class began with the following: a delightful discussion about kumquats, yummy coffee cake, Dr. Scanlon shaming us about the blog and t-shirts, and symposium discussion. I personally love the idea of a Borderline pastiche (can you do those in film?)

Most of today’s discussion centered on the relationship between “The Master” and Tribute to Freud. Everett began the discussion with the story of Perseus that H.D. related in which she is unsure what character she is supposed to be. Everett thought that H.D. related most to Perseus since he is the creator figure in the anecdote. This is not the first time that we’ve seen H.D. unable to identify with a specific character in her dreams; the Miriam/Princess/Moses dream is the most prominent example. Do you think it’s possible that she relates to all the figures in a particular dream? We briefly talked about H.D.’s role as a prophet after Alyssa brought up that Miriam was a prophet. This is a role that could be assigned to Moses as well. Instead of relating to Moses as the creator of a religion as Freud suggests, H.D. could relate to him as a prophet; that way she would have the male and female author represented in her dream. The princess could represent female power. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

We also focused on the relationship between H.D.’s “The Master” and E.D.’s Master letters. As Scanlon pointed out, H.D. would have been unaware of the Master letters since they had not been published, but there are still some odd similarities between the two, especially the flower imagery. Many people noted that the biggest difference between the two works came down to the tone; Christine talked about how problematic the Master Letters are because they are so subservient in tone. I think one point to expand on is the power dynamics between H.D. and Freud. Scanlon mentioned that H.D. saw herself as his caretaker at times. The only examples I can think of that relationship extend from his vulnerability as an Austrian Jew, but I’d be interested to see if that dynamic comes up elsewhere. I think that H.D.’s insistence in his infallibility is one example, but it doesn’t get to that same caretaker dynamic.

We also (really briefly) touched on H.D.’s relationships with her brothers. We mostly discussed the relationship and how it was routed through her mother, but I think that the relationship can be seen in other ways. When I finished Tribute, I was especially interested in H.D’s story about her father’s brothers’ experiences in the Civil War.  Does anyone think this is a palimpsest for her own relationship with her brothers, since H.D. and her father sharing the same role as the one who didn’t go to war? We never even touched on the fact that H.D. confused her father’s birthday with D.H. Lawrence’s death day. Given her relationship with Lawrence that’s definitely up for more discussion.

Choke of the Day: The bookstore for telling Scanlon to buy the wrong book.

MVP of the Day: Sam, for her fabulous movie idea. Can I get the role of the piano player?

Quote of the day: “Do you think they would have been attracted to each other?” Gracie, on the love story between Dickinson and H.D.

Today’s class began with the following: a delightful discussion about kumquats, Dr. Scanlon shaming us about the blog and t-shirts, and symposium discussion. I love the idea of a Borderline pastiche (can you do those in film?); big thank you to Sam for suggesting it.

We focused most of the class discussion on the relationship between “The Master” and Tribute to Freud. Everett began the discussion with the story of Perseus that H.D. related in which she is unsure what character she is supposed to be. Everett thought that H.D. related most to Perseus since he is the creator figure in the anecdote. This is not the first time that we’ve seen H.D. unable to identify with a specific character in her dreams; the Miriam/Princess/Moses dream is the most prominent example. Do you think it’s possible that she relates to all the figures in a particular dream? We briefly talked about H.D.’s role as a prophet after Alyssa brought up Miriam as a prophet, but that role could be assigned to Moses as well. Instead of relating to Moses as the creator of a religion as Freud suggests, H.D. could relate to him as a prophet; that way she would have the male and female author represented in her dream. The princess could represent female power. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

The class also focused on the relationship between H.D.’s “The Master” and E.D.’s Master letters. As Scanlon pointed out, H.D. would have been unaware of the Master letters since they had not been published, but there are still some odd similarities between the two, especially the flower imagery. Many people notes that the biggest difference between the two works comes down to the tone; Christine talked about how problematic the Master Letters are because they are so subservient. I think one point to expand more on is what Scanlon brought up about the power dynamics between H.D. and Freud and how she saw herself as his caretaker at times. The only examples I can think of that relationship come out of his vulnerability as an Austrian Jew, but I’d be interested to see if that dynamic comes up elsewhere. I think that H.D.’s insistence in his infallibility is one example, but it doesn’t get to that same caretaker dynamic.

We also (really briefly) touched on H.D.’s relationships with her brothers. We mostly discussed the relationship and how it was routed through her mother, but I think that the relationship can be seen in other ways. When I finished Tribute, I was especially interested in the story of her father’s brothers in the war.  Does anyon

Today’s class began with the following: a delightful discussion about kumquats, Dr. Scanlon shaming us about the blog and t-shirts, and symposium discussion. I love the idea of a Borderline pastiche (can you do those in film?); big thank you to Sam for suggesting it.

We focused most of the class discussion on the relationship between “The Master” and Tribute to Freud. Everett began the discussion with the story of Perseus that H.D. related in which she is unsure what character she is supposed to be. Everett thought that H.D. related most to Perseus since he is the creator figure in the anecdote. This is not the first time that we’ve seen H.D. unable to identify with a specific character in her dreams; the Miriam/Princess/Moses dream is the most prominent example. Do you think it’s possible that she relates to all the figures in a particular dream? We briefly talked about H.D.’s role as a prophet after Alyssa brought up Miriam as a prophet, but that role could be assigned to Moses as well. Instead of relating to Moses as the creator of a religion as Freud suggests, H.D. could relate to him as a prophet; that way she would have the male and female author represented in her dream. The princess could represent female power. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

The class also focused on the relationship between H.D.’s “The Master” and E.D.’s Master letters. As Scanlon pointed out, H.D. would have been unaware of the Master letters since they had not been published, but there are still some odd similarities between the two, especially the flower imagery. Many people notes that the biggest difference between the two works comes down to the tone; Christine talked about how problematic the Master Letters are because they are so subservient. I think one point to expand more on is what Scanlon brought up about the power dynamics between H.D. and Freud and how she saw herself as his caretaker at times. The only examples I can think of that relationship come out of his vulnerability as an Austrian Jew, but I’d be interested to see if that dynamic comes up elsewhere. I think that H.D.’s insistence in his infallibility is one example, but it doesn’t get to that same caretaker dynamic.

We also (really briefly) touched on H.D.’s relationships with her brothers. We mostly discussed the relationship and how it was routed through her mother, but I think that the relationship can be seen in other ways. When I finished Tribute, I was especially interested in the story of her father’s brothers in the war.  Does anyone think this is a palimpsest for her own relationship with her brothers, with H.D. and her father sharing the same role as the one who didn’t go to war? We never even touched on the fact that H.D. confused her father’s birthday with D.H. Lawrence’s death day. Given Lawrence’s apparent rejection of her, which opens up a whole new can of worms.

Choke of the Day: The bookstore for telling Scanlon to buy the wrong book.

MVP of the Day: Sarah, for her fabulous movie idea. Can I get the role of the piano player?

Quote of the day: “Do you think they would have been attracted to each other?” Gracie, on the love story between Dickinson and H.D.

e think this is a palimpsest for her own relationship with her brothers, with H.D. and her father sharing the same role as the one who didn’t go to war? We never even touched on the fact that H.D. confused her father’s birthday with D.H. Lawrence’s death day. Given Lawrence’s apparent rejection of her, which opens up a whole new can of worms.

Choke of the Day: The bookstore for telling Scanlon to buy the wrong book.

MVP of the Day: Sarah, for her fabulous movie idea. Can I get the role of the piano player?

Quote of the day: “Do you think they would have been attracted to each other?” Gracie, on the love story between Dickinson and H.D.



Meg’s Bridge to the Blog


Today in class we continued the idea of war—as well as women’s place in it. What I find particularly interesting about this topic is that the placement of gender spheres within the war almost seemed to contradict themselves. That is, despite the fact that women were taking the place of the men who were in the trenches and moving from domesticity (although I’m assuming not as greatly as WWII), there was still a societal emphasis on trying to normalize gender roles. Perhaps this was because of the shift towards masculinity that society pushed it.

Either way, I think that during class there was a lot of difficulty (Asphodel? Difficulty? Ha.) in  placing either Hermione’s or the reactions to women. Page 187 discusses both Hermione’s movement through (and past) conventional gender roles, as well as a general reaction to those that do. Just like European society, she’s contradictory. She comments, “If I can do without a husband…if I can do without a lover…if I can do without anybody and want to prove to myself that I am strong and I am alone like Madonna was…alone. We are always alone.” Hermione doesn’t necessarily need a man to depend on; instead she is the palimpsestic Madonna, needing a man for neither impregnation nor the raising of her child. However, at the same time, while Hermione is grateful for the “plough-girls,” she despises the ruin of their hands. Admittedly, this “ruin” is very likely the ruin that the war has caused, both to society and the individuals at the time, and that women ruined themselves for the war effort—and were happy to do it. At the same time, though, I don’t feel that Hermione can criticize the women who step forward and depend on themselves, just as she is looking to depend on herself.

Domesticity seems at a loss during Asphodel. Dr. Scanlon noted that the traditional endings that are typically provided by and are the end to a traditional feminine narrative occur in gaps—unmentionable, or not worth speaking about. We learn in full detail neither of Hermione’s marriage, nor the birth of Perdita. Instead, the narrative extends beyond these, insisting that Hermione’s struggle after is important; her fight for independence is what matters. Despite this, I find it interesting that Hermione never achieves that longed-for independence, and although her benefactor is not a man, she still retains a sort of traditional, gendered role.

Since we also briefly talked about the end, what do you make of Hermione’s lack of independence at the end of the novel (sans biography). What gendered position does this put her in—or does it place her anywhere at all? Finally, do you think that Hermione’s position and difficulties through the war have helped her achieve anything (identity, independence, whatever else you believe she is searching for) and how else do you think has the war impacted HD/Hermione?

Class MVP: Claire, for making delicious brownies.

Choke of the Day: All of us? Seriously, who got a good night’s sleep last night?

Quote of the Day: I can’t think of anything particularly memorable, except for Jacklyn quieting down our t-shirt czar discussion-“I know how we can make the t-shirts.” You had to be there, I guess.



Sarah S.’s Bridge to the Blog


Class today started as class usually starts, with show-and-tell and goodies, which is why we all love the crap out of this seminar. Scanlon modeled her girl-scout-style sash, complete with “merit” badges of Dickinson, while Sarah Delaney passed around her lovely cookies and Sour Patch Kids, which were the subject of a heated color supremacy debate. After addressing the ED paper and discovering that we can all save hundreds of dollars by plundering Google Books for the 3-volume edition of poems (though that link hasn’t been provided?), we all realized that this was, indeed, the last day of Dickinson. Soon we will start the HD portion of the class, and the poet we all know intimately and love greatly will be overshadowed. A moment of silence, please.

Thank you. Though the letters got the shaft today (though if you didn’t cry when you read “little cousins, called back” you are a monster), we were able to cover four poems, which I believe is some sort of record. We started with #1436, discussing the various vibes we got from this poem, whether creepy or sweet or objectifying or about flowers or whatever. Context became important, as we explored how different factors in Emily’s life affected our interpretation of the poem. As always, every word was agonized over, and no conclusions were drawn.

In between poems, we threw around t-shirt ideas, and then jumped right into #1743, with Karl’s explanation of volcanic vaginas. We really ran with this metaphor, offering explanations for strange words and possibilities of hetero-eroticism, homo-eroticism, self-eroticism, and just eroticism in general. There was little time to explore other readings of this poem (as about poetic inspiration, for instance), but once you see vaginas, it’s hard to unsee them. As we repeatedly failed to figure out syntax, we moved on to #1691, another volcano poem. We had even little explanation for this poem, positing theories of artistic power, volcanic interpretations, and sexuality, puzzling over the the tension in the poem and the biographical context.

Our final poem, #1507, took a lot of chewing over. Each word and line seemed to suggest entirely different readings, and Emily was as resistant as ever. First, fame was fleeting, then it was constant, then it was eternal, then incessant, then annoying, then insolvent, then a pregnancy, then a bee, then not a bee, and then we spent forever trying to figure out which president first had electricity (someone needs to give Kirby a pager, for reals y’all). This left me needing more. We could talk about Emily and fame all day, and I’d love to see more theories in the comments below. For me, the aspect of fame that stood out in this and #1788 was how she seemed to be warning you away from fame, introducing this idea of fame as distrustful and morally bankrupt in many ways–using people like a host-parasite relationship, staying or going as it pleased, with a degree of control that could be disruptive. A great discussion, and a great way to end Dickinson, which is to say, not ending Dickinson.

Class MVP: All of us. Because, let’s face it, we have done Emily justice in our weeks together. Hugs, all.

Choke of the Day: Scanlon, for never even having SEEN a Sour Patch Kid. Also, for letting her kids put their toothbrushes in the dishwasher. I still don’t get that…

Quote of the Day: Obviously Karl:    “I’m in a sex class.” Yes, yes you are.  (runner-ups include “i wrote VAGINA,” “which is actually called a vulva,” “I am well-versed,” and “it’s soft down there”–all Karl.)



Bridge to the Blog: The only certain things in life are death and…marriage?


Today in class we began our discussion with poem 185, but I felt like it never really concluded–probably because we continued the discussion about its prominent themes into the other two poems (194 and 225). Something that interested me were, of course, the two most prominent images in the poems and trying to determine which is the metaphor for which in each situation. The idea was also tossed around that maybe there’s a switch within the poems, specifically in 185 between stanzas. I guess I want to flesh out what the implications of each metaphor my be and try and give a reading of these poems with that in mind and then this post can serve as a gateway for others to put forth their own readings.

So my first instinct is that death is the metaphor for marriage. If that’s the case then marriage is the cessation of life, in this case, the bride in particular. I don’t think it is necessarily what kills the bride besides the fact that this death obviously has agency since the woman cannot pursue a marriage and force a man to marry her. This would imply that after a woman is married what follows is a lifeless existence and that brides are no more than images of death walking around and speaking when spoken to in the private sphere and not at all in the public sphere. This obviously does not bode well for the marriage in the eyes of Emily Dickinson. Or does it? Let’s look at it the other way. If marriage is the metaphor for death, this may be a good thing. There’s the curious use of the word “Victory” in 185 and 194, but from her dripping sarcasm in 194, I’d have to say we might apply the same to 185–especially since the second half of that poem and it’s creepiness definitely seems more like a bad thing than a good thing. Plus, as we’ve seen from her letters, she clearly is very suspicious of the marriage institution. In regards to it switching mid-poem or between stanzas (at least in regards to 185), I don’t think the text supports it. What I mean is that I think it’s running through both stanzas–the wife in the first stanza, the child in the second; the passing “Unto the East” in the first stanza and “The Angels” bustling in the second.

So my candidate is that death is the metaphor for marriage here. But what I’m wondering is what does that do for her poems that are primarily about death and it doesn’t seem as though marriage enters into it? Does this change your understanding of how Dickinson’s relation to death is something that might be very real to her–a lurking possibility, just around the door? What do you all think?

Choke of the Day: Dropping the Dickinson doll–both times–was hilarious, complete with the readings outside the door and little Emily Dickinson hovering in the crack to “read” her poems to us.

Class MVP: Alyssa for initiating the motion to do something about it whenever someone drops the Dickinson doll and (I think) coming up with our first plan of action against The First Dude. We’re counting on you Snape!

Quote of the Day: [Insert Gary Richards’ Dickinson parody poem here]
The only one I remember in full is:

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
Enough said.



Ryan’s Bridge to the Blog: Dickinson’s “Master” Letters


In class today, I think Alyssa initiated a compelling discussion when she expressed her discomfort and disappointment with Dickinson’s surprisingly self-subjugating tone in the “Master” letters.  Prof. Scanlon complicated this reading though, by referring to passages in the third and fourth paragraphs of letter 233, in which Dickinson challenges her Master, revealing that she is not telling him everything about herself and suggesting that if merely the markers of their gender–his beard and her petals–were reversed, the power dynamics of their relationship would also reverse.

So what do we do here?  Do we read Dickinson’s servile tone as genuine passive submission?  Or do we read it as performative feminism that seeks to, in Salska’s words, “seduce” the Master into Dickinson’s confidence with seeming servility?

In reading over the letters again, I tend to fall on the side of Alyssa’s initial reaction, mostly because of one particularly cringe-worthy passage in the last paragraph of  letter 248, when Dickinson writes:  “Master – open your life wide, and take me in forever, I will never be tired – I will never be noisy when you want to be still.  I will be [glad] [as the] your best little girl – nobody else will see me, but you – but that is enough – I shall not want anymore – and all that Heaven only will disappoint me – will be because it’s not so dear.”

While the concluding lines of this passage are reminiscent of Dickinson’s correspondence with Sue, in even the most passionate of those letters, Dickinson never suggests a willingness to subjugate her will to Sue’s as she does to her Master’s here.  What’s troubling me more than anything else is the line about her own poetic voice, where Dickinson proclaims that she will “never be noisy” when her Master wants her to be still.   In a sense, this claim appears to contradict the defiant Vesuvius line that Scanlon drew our attention to in letter 233.

But on the other hand, there’s a quote in the Salska article that reminded me of Scanlon’s comment about Bakhtinian  theory and provides a helpful frame for maybe understanding some of the inconsistencies of tone and voice in ED’s correspondence, particularly the “Master” letters.

“Recent studies of Dickinson’s letters seek to demonstrate that, nourished by a culture of intimacy of which the letter was a primary vehicle, the poet formulated principles of her poetics in the course of her intense and extended correspondence. Her poetry and her correspondence are founded on the epistemological resistance to “closure in all its forms” and on the primacy of the intimate but dialogic, not monologic, voice, a base from which other stylistic affinities between her poetry and prose derive” (Salska 165).

Here, Salska suggests that we follow the same guiding principle we’ve been using to read her poetry–the avoidance of “closure in all forms”–in parsing out her letters.   Salska also cautions against the search for THE EMILY DICKINSON in her letters, instead advocating the reading of her various tones–the strong-willed feminist and the submissive love-slave–as fluctuating personas that dialogue with her various confidants.

So I guess we can have our Dickinson Black Cake and eat it too, right?  Or is this kind of a cop-out?  What do you guys think?

On another note, since there’s only one Dickinson hat and lots of awesome things happening in class, I thought I’d take the liberty of creating a few more daily blog-only awards:

Choke of the Day: Matt, for realizing after reading an entire letter out loud that he had actually chosen the wrong one to read.

Class MVP: Matt again, for penetrating said letter with deep insight anyway, but mostly for passing around a bag of runts.

Quote of the Day: “I kissed a girl and I liked it?  Isn’t that the name of some stupid song?”  –Scanlon, demonstrating her formidable knowledge of pop culture feminist criticism.



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