Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Art: A Cognitive Reading

By | October 9, 2023

I first encountered the poetry of Emily Dickinson at Smith College as a foreign student in the newly created Diploma in American Studies program in 1962. At the time I was intrigued by the complexities of her language. After my graduation in 1963, I spent the summer as a live-in curator at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley and was invited by Mrs. Park, then the owner of the Dickinson Homestead, to tea. So my relationship with all things Dickinson has been both professional and personal. I started out with what turned out to be a lifelong commitment to Dickinson’s poetry with my dissertation on “Emily Dickinson’s Prosody: A Study in Metrics,” followed by many articles in various journals and anthologies. On the personal level, I was active in helping found the Emily Dickinson International Society and served as its first President.

After my retirement from college teaching, my husband and I started a residential think tank in Cognition and the Arts at our home in Heath, Massachusetts (myrifield.org). Since 2005 every month from September to May the Myrifield Institute hosts the Emily Dickinson Reading Circle for anyone interested in discussing and experiencing Dickinson’s poetry. We hold two annual luncheons, one in December to celebrate Dickinson’s birthday, and one in May to commemorate her death. We have lots of fun and laughter and I have learned so much from these discussions. With many published articles, attending conferences, and giving guest lectures around the world, it has taken me over 50 years to finally complete my promised book on Dickinson’s poetry.

I am glad I didn’t rush into publication earlier. I have learned so much more about how to study and experience a poem from interdisciplinary excursions into linguistics, psychology, semiotics, neurosciences, aesthetics, and cognitive approaches to art. I am happy to share with you the fruits of all that research with the publication of Dickinson’s Poetic Art: A Cognitive Reading. I hope that it will help you too to master the intricacies of Dickinson’s poetic style and experience a better understanding of her enigmatic poetry.

Margaret H. Freeman, author of Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Art, is Co-Director of the Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts, MA, USA. Professor Freeman’s past publications include The Poem as Icon: A Study in Aesthetic Cognition (2020).

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