Emily Dickinson's Experiential Poetics and Rev. Dr. Charles Wadsworth’s Rhetoric of Sensation

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This study examines Emily Dickinson’s experiential poetics and her position within and against the changing orthodoxy during the Second Great Awakening, which is best demonstrated by the orthodox sermons of her contemporary, Reverend Dr. Charles Wadsworth. Wadsworth’s published sermons and his “rhetoric of sensation” reflect the characteristics of the changing orthodoxy that arose from the conflict between the liberal Unitarians and the conservative Congregationalists. The tension of knowing and not knowing that existed between these two divergent and convergent faiths created the perfect literary situation in which Dickinson could thrive as a poetic figure. Therefore, this context will shed new light on the study of Dickinson and her work.


“Dr. Mary Lee Stephenson Huffer’s study celebrates the intellectual marriage between the renowned clergyman Charles Wadsworth (1814-1882) and the even more renowned poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). ... this re-focus on Wadsworth favors ‘the marriage of true minds’ over the only partially explanatory paradigm of pure, yet unfulfilled and somewhat sentimental, romance. Huffer’s model facilitates a less chaste, as well as a more cerebral, interpretation of Dickinson’s love poems than does reading them as merely case studies in the psychology of the lovelorn.” - Dr. Richard E. Brantley, Alumni Professor of English, University of Florida - Gainesville

Table of Contents

Foreword by Richard E. Brantley
Note on Texts
1 Introduction
2 Dickinson’s Orthodoxy: “Sweet Skepticism of The Heart”
3 The Myth of Amherst and Her Philadelphia: The Marriage of Two Minds
4 Wadsworth’s “Dark Flood”: Dickinson’s “Flood Subject”
5 The Mortal Immortalized: “The Face I Carry with Me -- Last”
6 Conclusion

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