Emily Dickinson: The Unorthodox Epistolary Writer

Doctoral Dissertation uoadl:2964269 27 Read counter

Department of English Language and Literature
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Manda Efrosyni
Dissertation committee:
Σακελλίου Ευαγγελία, Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΕΚΠΑ
Ντόκου Χριστίνα, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΕΚΠΑ
Καραβαντά Ασημίνα, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΕΚΠΑ
Μήτση Ευτέρπη, Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΕΚΠΑ
Δημακοπούλου Σταματίνα, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΕΚΠΑ
Τατιανή Ραπατζίκου, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Φιλολογία, ΑΠΘ
Aliki Barnstone, Professor, English, University of Missouri
Original Title:
Emily Dickinson: The Unorthodox Epistolary Writer
Translated title:
Emily Dickinson: The Unorthodox Epistolary Writer
Besides being a poetess, Emily Dickinson was an avid letter writer. As nineteenth century letter writing was the means of safeguarding the prevalence of moral – or even moralistic – values and perpetuating the existing hierarchies, my dissertation investigates the ways in which Emily Dickinson eludes the normative framework of epistolarity. I suggest that while she takes advantage of letter writing, which affords her with the opportunity to map her own world and people it with the addressees that correspond to her manifold personality, she transgresses and violates every rule and instruction on proper letter writing that stands in her way to resist subjection to the existing social order. Dickinson transforms the letter into her arena of toying with conventions, and particularly into a Trojan horse through which she undermines tradition. Confronted with the epistolary conventions, she seizes them, appropriates them till she ultimately turns them against themselves and deconstructs them. I consider Dickinson’s letters the site on which her dissension from both the epistolary and the social norms is reflected, and I attempt to map out the steps of her differentiation throughout her life as evident in the composition of her letters. My work focuses on the structure and the content of her letters in juxtaposition to nineteenth-century epistolography etiquette, and attempts to prove that what is called a Dickinson letter lacks most of the epistolary properties of a conventional letter. I attempt to show how Dickinson creates a new genre; that of poetic epistolarity, by stripping the letter both of its ordinary form and function and by infusing it with her epiphanies which transform the commonalities of a conventional composition into an innovative piece of writing. My analysis examines the ways she transforms the prosaic style of the letter into poetic, the ways she invests the letter sent to individuals with universality as well as the ways she batters down the spatiotemporal boundaries inherent within the notion of the letter, rendering it thus diachronic.
Main subject category:
Language – Literature
Emily Dickinson's Letters, nineteenth century epistolarity, letter writing manuals, performativity, poetic epistolarity
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