Emily Dickinson as The Muse of literature


In response to Susan Howe’s essay These Flames and Generosities of the Heart, it is evident that Susan is declaring Emily Dickinson as her muse (the goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts). Proof of this presents itself throughout the essay. What gave me this impression to begin with was when Howe outlined that Emily had muses who influenced her writing; Newton and Wadsworth subsequently played the roles of Dickinson’s mentors.  Also, Howe’s essay style mirrors the way Emily wrote her literary works. Emily had breaks and dashes and crosses in her work, which appeared in no real pattern. Susan is attaching a value to these breaks in the page.  Howe states, “this space is a poem’s space…this space is a poet’s space” (H120). Similar to Dickinson’s works, Howe formats her essay sporadically with no repeated layout; in the form of whitespace Howe lets the reader’s absorb what they are reading. Another way Howe represents Emily’s style during her essay is when she describes Emily’s work in a contradictory way: “Emily Dickinson almost never titled a poem. She titled a poem several times. She drew an ink slash at the end of a poem. Sometimes she didn’t” (H124). Consciously or not, Howe is mirroring Emily’s nonconformity in her literary style. Susan doesn’t want to generalize Emily’s work; she believes that there are no parallels in her writing and that we can’t explain it. Howe says it is “something produced absolutely without thought of publication and solely by way of the writers own mind…” (H124). After reading Susan Howe’s essay, it is clear to me that Dickinson serves as Howe’s muse; Howe’s essay layout and style of writing thoroughly reflect Emily’s approach to literature.



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