Emily Dickinson Poetry Discussion Group

The Emily Dickinson Museum's Poetry Discussion group meets monthly September through May (except for December) for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.  Featured facilitators each month offer fresh perspectives on Dickinson's poetry.

Time: Noon - 2 p.m.

Location: The Poetry Discussion Group meets at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, on the second floor of Frost Library. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch; beverages and a sweet snack are provided.

Fee: The fee for Museum members is $12/session; the fee for non-members is $15/session. Season subscriptions are $75 for Museum members and $100 for non-members. To become a Friend of the Emily Dickinson Museum and enjoy member discounts, click here.

For more information, contact the Program Department: edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org or call (413) 542-8429.

 

2016-2017 SEASON

Friday, September 23, 2016

Session Topic: Dickinson’s “Loved Philology”: The Vitality of Words.
To interpret a poem well, one needs to experience it first. In this session, we will focus on Dickinson's extraordinary way with words: her "loved philology."  Her poems sometimes puzzle, partly because we often reduce our understanding of her words to our own contemporary meanings. When we explore the semantic networks of a word in the context of Dickinson's own experience of language etymology and usage, new dimensions of meaning open up. Participants are invited to bring in one poem they find especially challenging with respect to word choice. We won't be able to look at all the poems in the time allowed, but hope that our discussions will enable participants to discover on their own ways to follow the possibilities of Dickinson's own conceptual poetic processes. 

 Leader: Margaret H. Freeman is Professor Emerita, Los Angeles Valley College, and co-director of Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts (myrifield.org). She was a founding member and first president (1988-1992) of the Emily Dickinson International Society and moderates the monthly meetings of the Emily Dickinson Reading Circle at Myrifield in Heath, MA. She is a co-editor of the Oxford University Press series in Cognition and Poetics. Her research interests include cognitive poetics, aesthetics, linguistics, and literature. A list of her scholarly publications may be found here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Session Topic: Dickinson's Gothic Sublime
Leader: Amy E. Martin is Professor of English and chair of the English department at Mount Holyoke College. She is also the Faculty Director of the college's Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program. She teaches courses in Victorian literature and visual culture, Irish poetry and prose, and postcolonial studies. She is the author of Alter-Nations: Nationalisms, Terror, and the State in Nineteenth Century Britain and Ireland (2012) as well as articles in Victorian ReviewVictorian Literature and Culture,Nineteenth Century ContextsThe Field Day Review, and other journals and collections of essays.  She has lectured at University of Notre Dame's Irish Studies Summer Seminar, the James Joyce Summer School in Dublin, and recently, Princeton University's Fund for Irish Studies. 
 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Session Topic:  T. W. Higginson’s “Decoration” and Emily Dickinson’s “Lay this Laurel on the one.”

How did Dickinson want to be recognized and remembered? We may find some answers in Dickinson’s reaction to Thomas W. Higginson’s poem “Decoration.” There are few recorded instances of Dickinson exchanging poetry and commentary with another poet, so it’s a rare opportunity to explore how she read and responded to other’s poetry. Between 1874 and 1877, Dickinson commented on “Decoration” several times. She associated “Decoration” with the death of her father, and in 1877, she sent Higginson her thoughts on honoring the dead in F1428, “Lay this Laurel on the one.” He thought the poems agreed. He said to MabelLoomis Todd that Dickinson’s poem was the “condensed essence” of “Decoration.” Would Dickinson have agreed with him?

Leader: Melba Jensen has taught English, computer literacy, and mathematics to college students and high-school students since 1986.  She completed her Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in nineteenth-century American Literature at the University of Massachusetts in 2005.  She is a lecturer for “American Literature until 1865” at UMass-Amherst.  For the past two years, she has guided tours at the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Please RSVP to the session here!

No meeting in December
Friday, January 20, 2017

Session Topic: "Speaking of the Unspeakable"
Leader: Joy Ladin Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, has published a number of essays on Dickinson, and a book-length study, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry.

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Session Topic: Emily Dickinson and the Art of Hiding
Dickinson plays hide-and-seek in her poems, teasing her readers to find her. Her strategies conceal--and reveal--her sense of mischief, her shy worry about being "a Bride," her eroticism, her evasion of conventional thought, and her love of play. We'll join her in the game, as she leads us on some frisky poetic chases. 
Leader:  Susan Snively grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and now lives in Amherst, MA where she is a guide, discussion leader, and film script writer for the Emily Dickinson Museum. She was the founder and first director of the Writing Center at Amherst College, where she worked from 1981 until 2008.  She taught courses in writing and autobiographies of women, and has published four collections of poems. Snively has also published essays both personal and critical, and published a novel in 2014, The Heart Has Many Doors, about the love affair between Emily Dickinson and Judge Otis Phillips Lord.

 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Session Topic:   Emily Dickinson and Animals

Images of animals -- including dogs, birds, frogs, rats, and insects – suffuse Dickinson’s poetry.  In this session, we will think about the different ways animals matter to her poetry.  These include animals appearing poetically as objects of her perceptual scrutiny, as sites for anthropomorphism, as animate companions, and as multifaceted metaphors.  We will focus, in particular, on canine imagery in the poems, as linked to Dickinson’s relation to her own dog, Carlo.

 Leader: Elizabeth Young is Carl M. and Elsie A. Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.  She is the author of Disarming the Nation:  Women's Writing and the American Civil War and Black Frankenstein:  The Making of an American Metaphor, and co-author of On Alexander Gardner's "Photographic Sketch Book" of the Civil War.  She is completing a book on the representation of animals in nineteenth-century North America.

 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Discussion Topic:  Reading Dickinson through Different Critical Lenses (Part 1 of 2)
Discussion series participants are accustomed to close reading of Dickinson’s poems from literary, biographical, and historical perspectives. But what new understandings can be gained by applying other modern critical lenses? Part 1 of this two-part session will include a brief introduction to critical theory and a reading of several poems based on sociological approaches, particularly gender (feminist) and class (Marxist).

Leader: Bruce M. Penniman taught writing, speech, and literature at Amherst Regional High School from 1971 until 2007. He is the site director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1999 he was Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year, and in 2009, and he is the author of Building the English Classroom: Foundations, Support, Success (NCTE, 2009).  He has served as a teacher curriculum mentor in all three NEH Emily Dickinson: Person, Poetry, and Place workshops and has facilitated discussions in the Poetry Discussion Group on topics ranging from Emily Dickinson and the Bible to Emily Dickinson and Science.

 
Friday, May 19, 2017
Discussion Topic:  Reading Dickinson through Different Critical Lenses (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2 of this two-part session will include a review of the sociological lenses applied in Part 1 and an introduction to  one or more psychological lenses (Freudian, archetypal). Participants will look at several more Dickinson poems using a variety of approaches. The session will conclude with a discussion of the value added from applying critical theories to Dickinson’s poetry.

Leader: Bruce M. Penniman taught writing, speech, and literature at Amherst Regional High School from 1971 until 2007. He is the site director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1999 he was Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year, and in 2009, and he is the author of Building the English Classroom: Foundations, Support, Success (NCTE, 2009).  He has served as a teacher curriculum mentor in all three NEH Emily Dickinson: Person, Poetry, and Place workshops and has facilitated discussions in the Poetry Discussion Group on topics ranging from Emily Dickinson and the Bible to Emily Dickinson and Science.