• Richard E. Brantley


“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 [1794], lines 1–2). Her poetry, paradoxically enough, acquires immediacy and foreknowledge from her looking backward.


Spiritual Experience Threatened Identity British Empiricism Lyric Poet Religious Doubt 
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  1. 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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    Shira Wolosky, Emily Dickinson: A Voice of War, 59. Wolosky’s ear for the tragic overtones of Dickinson’s wartime poetry takes on a less historical, more theoretical quality in her recent criticism: “Dickinson’s texts [are] highly structured systems of figures that, on the one hand, seem to offer images of each other but that then, on the other hand, prove not to correspond fully but to contradict or gainsay each other.” See the report on Wolosky, “Being in the Body,” presented to the EDIS Trondheim Conference, August 3–5, 2001, in Cristanne Miller, “Filling the Circle,” Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin 13 (November/December 2001): 8–9. See also Leigh-Anne Urbanowicz Marcelin,“‘Singing off the Charnel Steps’: Soldiers and Mourners in Emily Dickinson’s War Poetry,” The Emily Dickinson Journal 9.2 (2000): 64–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Charles Simic, “ A World Gone Up in Smoke,” The New York Review of Books 48 (December 20, 2001): 14–18, esp. 16. For a New-Historicist, quasi-Marxist reading of Dickinson as insufficiently aware of history,Google Scholar
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    For the distinction between soft- and hard-core Deconstruction, see David Lehman, Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man, passim. For subtle New Historicism, see Alan Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History, esp. 39. For the less subtle, see Marjorie Levinson, Wordsworth’s Great Period Poems; Gary Harrison, Wordsworth’s Vagrant Muse: Poetry, Poverty, and Power; Celeste Langan, Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom; and Toby R. Benis, Romanticism on the Road: The Marginal Gains of Wordsworth’s Homeless. My au fait attempt at softcore Deconstruction inheres in my discussion of Emerson’s “Experience” (1844) and “Fate” (1852), in Anglo-American Antiphony: The Late Romanticism of Tennyson and Emerson, 211–35. For negotiations between Deconstruction and New Historicism, see my review of Nigel Leask, British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire, in JEGP 93 (Fall 1994): 592–95; my review of Robert M. Ryan, The Romantic Reformation: Religious Politics in English Literature, 1789–1824, in Modern Philology 99 (August 2001): 131–34; and my review-essay, “Christianity and Romanticism: A Dialectical Review,” Christianity and Literature 48 (Spring 1999): 349–66. See also Ryan , “Christianity and Romanticism: A Reply,” Christianity and Literature 49 (Autumn 1999): 81–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Suzanne Juhasz, “Reading Dickinson Doubly,” Women’s Studies 16.1–2 (1989): 217–21, esp. 220–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Juhasz , “Tea and Revolution: Emily Dickinson Populates the Mind,” Essays in Literature 12.1 (Spring 1985): 145–50, esp. 148–49.Google Scholar
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    Allen Tate, “New England Culture and Emily Dickinson,” Symposium 3 (April 1932): 206–26, esp. 208–09.Google Scholar
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    See Jean-Yves Tadip Marcel Proust: A Life, translated by Euan Cameron, 212. See also André Aciman, “Proust Regained,” The New York Review of Books 49 (July 18, 2002): 55–61, esp. 57.Google Scholar
  11. 61.
    See Noam Chomsky and John Searle, “Chomsky’s Revolution: An Exchange,” The New York Review of Books 49 July 18, 2002): 64–65. For a recent delineation of Chomsky’s “isolation,” as well as of his contribution to linguistic theory and political debate, see Larissa MacFarquhar, “The Devil’s Accountant,” The New Yorker, March 31, 2003, 64–79. Matt Ridley collapses the distinction between nature and nurture, regarding components of the latter (learning, behavior, culture) as involving genes. See Ridley, Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human, passim. Google Scholar

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© Richard E. Brantley 2004

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