Autonomy: Emily Dickinson’s Collected Poems
For the Introvert Book Club selection of September 2022, we’re discussing the self-determination of a quintessential poet and her work. Become a paid subscriber and discuss with us!
In the popular imagination, Emily Dickinson, who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts from 1830 to 1886, became a recluse when disappointed in love, always wearing a long white dress and for decades speaking with almost no one. She wrote strangely suggestive poetry in secret, caching the work in a trunk that relatives discovered after her death. Some have diagnosed her in retrospect as suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder, a mental illness featuring crippling anxiety and a pathological fear of interpersonal contact or intimacy.
It’s true she skittered up the stairs when the doorbell rang, rarely left home after the age of 30 and published only a few poems while alive. But a clear-eyed look at the themes she tackled in her poems yields a far more positive picture of Emily Dickinson and the choices she made. Once we disentangle her from society’s disapproval of solitary people, we might even celebrate her as an introvert hero.