Emily Dickinson and Adrienne Rich Essay

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Emily Dickinson and Adrienne Rich

The modernist period, stretching from the late 19th century to approximately 1960, is a very distinct phase in the progression of American literature, employing the use of novel literary techniques which stray away from the traditional literary styles observed in the time preceding the period. Modernist writers explore new styles themes, and content in their compositions, encompassing issues ranging from race (Kate Chopin) to gender (H.D.) to sexuality (James Baldwin), as well as many others. The Modernist movement, however novel and unique, did not develop spontaneously. A few writers leading up to the movement exhibit obvious modernist views in their writing. These include male writers Ralph
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Rich, a writer extremely interested in Emily Dickinson’s life and poetry, was also deeply influenced by her. Rich composed poems, essays, and criticism about Dickinson, borrowed lines from her poetry, and even drew parallels between her own life and Dickinson’s. Similarities between the two poets also extended to style within their writing, as well as modernist themes that both advocate, especially feminism. To understand the extent that Dickinson’s modernist tendencies shine through in Adrienne Rich’s writings, it is important to first explore the impact Dickinson had on Rich’s life and compositions in general. It is no accident that Rich adapts styles and themes from Dickinson’s poetry; many parallels can be drawn between Dickinson’s and Rich’s life, including how “she [like Dickinson] set herself apart [from society’s framework] in order to define her own emotional and social territory” (Martin, 171). Also, both writers revered and feared their fathers, even though both chose to pit themselves “in opposition to [their fathers], to live according to [their] own premises” (Langdell, 166). Although Rich states that she could not have lived her life the way Emily Dickinson does in her essay “Vesuvius at Home: the Power of Emily Dickinson (1975),” she also admits that she has “come to understand her necessities [and] could have been a witness in her defense” (Rich, 158). Rich admires Dickinson, even calling some poems of her own mere “imitations”

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