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My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – September 17, 2002
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In an excellent literary biography that matches the standard set by his earlier book, The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr., Alfred Habegger brings a modern perspective to bear on the life and art of the great American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-86) while respecting and lucidly conveying her own distinctively 19th-century views. Like the groundbreaking 1970s feminist reassessments of Dickinson, this text avoids portraying her as a quaint, ladylike homebody (the stereotypical "Belle of Amherst"), and instead stresses her powerful personality and the strategies she employed to transcend the limits placed on her by Victorian society and a domineering father. Even though as an unmarried woman she was expected to stay close to home, Dickinson opted for a life of seclusion, thereby avoiding the social responsibilities foisted upon middle-class women of her day. Habegger does not minimize the fact that Dickinson was a very peculiar woman, particularly as he chronicles the middle years during which her unconventional attitudes hardened into the mannerisms of a local "character." But his primary focus is always on the genius that transformed her personal dilemmas into art. His sensitive, acute handling of her writings, with frequent quotations and careful analysis, fulfills one of the key functions of a literary biography: it makes you want to run out and reread Emily Dickinson's poetry right away. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Making perceptive use of feminist scholarship of the past three decades, the firsthand reports of Dickinson's intimates and careful readings of her lyrics and letters, former University of Kansas English professor Habegger creates a newly complex portrait of the poet's life (1830-86) and greatly enhances our understanding of her art. As in The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr., Habegger analyzes his subject's experiences from a modern perspective without obscuring the very different ways in which she herself perceived them. His greatest achievement is a nuanced depiction of how Dickinson transformed the limits placed on her into choices that enabled her poetry. Kept close to home in Amherst, Mass., by her authoritarian father, she chose to become a recluse and avoid altogether the social duties laid on middle-class women. Painfully rejected more than once as a young woman because of her extreme emotional neediness, she assumed a "childish" air that allowed her far more freedom of expression than that accorded New England's adults. "The blessing and the wound became one and the same," writes Habegger. "What that seems to mean for us is that her great genius is not to be distinguished from her madness." Habegger also gives full attention to the impact of the religious revival that swept New England in Dickinson's youth, reminding us of how tough young Emily had to resist intense pressure to declare herself "saved." Habegger rejects the traditional view that Dickinson's work and life were static; "her poetry shows a striking and dramatic evolution," he declares, and his immensely satisfying narrative makes the largely interior struggles she conducted over the course of 55 years just as dramatic. This is as good as literary biography gets.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
If the title, from one of ED's poems, does not hit you to the bone, forget it. Otherwise, 1. Read Complete Works of America's greatest poet (about 1800 poems, one wild night to change your life.). 2. Selected Letters a good idea (Complete Letters are for Research/ Scholars.) Johnson -editor, friend, advisor, however overwhelmed he may have been by the woman's incredible originality and refusal to conform, knowing full-well she would not be a published poet during her lifetime (save perhaps for 10 mellifluous lady's things) - was the first to start compiling Emily D.'s poems and letters: poems are often (another edition does exist, yes) referred to as 'J 202', 'J 1703', because Johnson (J) tried to ascribe dates to them, as there are no titles, STUDENTS J 500. So Letters give insight into very delicate mind, peculiar but memorable statements about religious views (atheism: indoctrination with the Book of Revelation may indeed scare the Holy out of anyone); tastes in literature (OK yes Shakespeare "What need one anything else?"); and a strange combination of girlish enthusiasm, caustic wit, intellectual depth few would care to plunge into, melancholy of course of the existentialist brand, and, ultimately, a sense of certainty, even while acknowledging doubt. The difference between arrogance and knowledge. 3. Biography: terrifying concerning this woman's life, very impressive scholarly research.
Most recent customer reviews
Worth reading if you like Emily Dickinson and Biography.
Look her up on the net.