Emily Dickinson & the Art of Belief

Roger Lundin, Author Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8028-3857-5
In this readable new biography of the reclusive poet, Wheaton English professor Lundin concentrates on Dickinson's ambivalence toward Christianity and its effects on the self. He traces her inner debate through a careful analysis of Dickinson's poems and letters, and he concludes that she was ""one of the major religious thinkers of her age."" According to Lundin, Dickinson's struggle with suffering and the character of God mirrored the major forces--Darwinism, the Civil War, the spread of industrialism--that tested and altered American Protestantism. Lundin also contends that Dickinson's notion of God as silent and severe was drawn from her relationship with her father, Edward Dickinson, a remote patriarch who disdained the enthusiasm and emotion of religious revivals. The ""Pugilist and Poet,"" as Dickinson described herself, longed to believe in God's loving care, but her sense of human frailty would not allow her wholly to accept His existence. In addition, she could not profess firsthand knowledge of the fruits of grace; nor could she detect any signs in her own soul of the holy joy that others claimed as they accepted Christ. Her choice of ""poetry as a surrogate for traditional religious belief,"" writes Lundin, set her on a path to solitude, a path that led away from marriage, church and the world outside Amherst, Mass. Lundin's close readings of Dickinson's poetry and his careful analysis of Dickinson's historical and social context make a persuasive case for the implicit religious dimension of Dickinson's life and work. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-8028-0157-9
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