“No matter how direct the attempt at revival,” as I declared in 1984, “the near influence is always telling.” For example, since the Pentateuch took shape during the reign of King Josiah (seventh century bce), the Book of Exodus has more to do with Pharaoh Necho II’s hostility toward Josiah and with the people’s sense of threatened identity thereafter than with the career of Moses (ca. 1300 bce). Josiah, rather than Moses, “meets the challenge of a pharaoh.” On the other hand, Moses remains the impetus of the interpretation given by king and people to ongoing events. The achievement of Emily Dickinson (1830–86) serves as a case in point, illustrating the converse of my presiding assumption—namely, that no matter how direct the near influence is, the attempt at revival always tells. Dickinson, I argue, reflects the large understanding of prophecy that Blake also exhibits, addressing a “Bard! / Who Present, Past, & Future sees” (“Introduction” to Songs of Experience , lines 1–2). Her poetry, paradoxically enough, acquires immediacy and foreknowledge from her looking backward.
KeywordsSpiritual Experience Threatened Identity British Empiricism Lyric Poet Religious Doubt
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- 8.See Barton Levi St. Armand, Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul’s Society, 99; and John F. McDermott, M.D., “Emily Dickinson Revisited: A Study of Periodicity in Her Work”, American Journal of Psychiatry 158.5 (May 2001): 686–90, esp. 687. The linguistic despair attendant upon Wordsworth’s apprehension of the Reign of Terror, significantly, is also a political and psychological trauma that leads to paralyzed skepticism. I refer to Books 9 and 10 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude and to the recollections of the September Massacre in his 1805 Prelude 10:64–82 and 10:306–46. Geoffrey Hartman’s examination of the post-traumatic stress syndrome that characterizes the otherwise optimistic Wordsworth’s experience of the French Revolution applies. See hints throughout Hartman’s most recent works: The Longest Shadow; A Critic’s Journey; and the “Darkness Visible” chapter of Holocaust Remembrance. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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