Emily Dickinson Poetry Discussion Group (2018 - 2019)

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. While no RSVP is required, participants are invited to e-mail  edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org to receive a list of poems for discussion.

Time: Noon - 2 p.m.

Location: The Poetry Discussion Group meets at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, on the second floor of Amherst College's Frost Library. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch; beverages and a sweet snack are provided. Participants should report directly to the Library, and do not need to stop at the Museum.

Parking: Free parking for this program is available in the Amherst College Alumni Lot. Visitors to campus with any official state-issued Handicapped placards are permitted to park in any marked handicapped spot on campus without obtaining any additional permits from Amherst College.

For a campus map, click this link

Fee: The fee for Museum Friends is $12/session; the general fee is $15/session. Season subscriptions are $80 for Museum members and $105 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) 542-2034.

 2018-2019 Season

  • Friday September 21, 2018

Session Topic: Tropic Hints
This discussion will take its inspiration from Dickinson's 1879 exchange with her Amherst childhood friend Helen Hunt Jackson. Jackson was much taken with Dickinson's bird poems, and suggested Dickinson try her hand at the oriole. Dickinson obliged with "One of the ones that Midas touched," and added, for good measure, her famous riddle poem "A route of evanescence." We will explore the themes and strategies of some of Dickinson's bird poems ("To hear an oriole sing," for example), with the discussion opening out on such topics as Dickinson and the tropics and Dickinson's riddle poems.

 Leader: Christopher Benfey is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the The New York Times Book Review. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of four books about the American Gilded Age, including A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade, which won the 2009 Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa. Benfey was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.

  • Friday October 19, 2018

Session Topic: A Revolution in Locality, 2: Deep Cuts from the Middle Fascicles
In this discussion, we will examine how Dickinson surveys and represents a very intimate locality, which positions her natural surroundings from her point of view at the Homestead

Leader: David Razor
In addition to planting and weeding at the museum’s Garden Days each spring, David Razor is a May 2019 PhD Candidate in 19th Century American Literature at Brandeis University.  His work explores the intersection between literature, toxic public rhetoric and private languages in the work of Poe, Hawthorne, Melville and Dickinson.  He has presented papers at the Herman Melville Society, the American Literature Association and the National Humanities Conference, where he documented pedagogical approaches from teaching 10-Week seminars that were able to focus exclusively on “big” novels such as Moby Dick as well as Emily Dickinson’s beloved Middlemarch.  At Brandeis, David was awarded the University Prize Instructorship, and in 2018, led two Dickinson seminars for the Brandeis BOLLI Program. Previously for 9 years in a California high school, David taught AP English, as well as British Literature.  He served as a Master Teacher for the California State University.

  • Friday November 16, 2018

Session Topic: Emily Dickinson's Planet
When Emily Dickinson wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson about “Planetary Forces,”  was she thinking about astrophysics? geopolitics ? environmental changes? Something more philosophical? What did the idea of earth’s planetarity mean to Dickinson and her circle, and what does it mean to us?

Leader:  Renée Bergland

  • Friday January 18, 2019
  • Friday February 15, 2019
  • Friday March 15, 2019
  • Friday April 19, 2019
  • Friday May 17, 2019