||Emily Dickinson, with a soul passing beyond the confines of mainstream gender ideology, religiosity, natural theology, transcendentalism, and literary conventions, creates the sublime in her poetry, which demonstrates her realization and manipulation of inspiring thoughts and liberating movements experienced where diverse conscience stirrings, ideologies, ideas, axioms and discourses intersect. Dickinsonian sublime offers an example for Jean-François Lyotard’s discourses on the modern and postmodern sublime, which coincidentally mirror Dickinson’s time, her personal response and reaction. |
Liberating herself from the confines of gender ideology as well as female literary conventions, Dickinson invents her own self and identity, suggesting differences among women, who can be discontinuous and multiple instead of being a category with “ontological integrity” (Judith Butler, Gender Trouble 23). She embodies a writer who creates according to her nature and experience as a sensitive person constantly investigating inwardly and outwardly, blurring traditionally-assigned gender distinctions, alternating between various roles, and reversing gendered traits instead of just being a subordinate advocate of mainstream domesticity, gender identity, or religiosity.
Not traveling on the path constructed by the traditional theological system but abolishing its authority over her thoughts, attitudes, deeds, or interpretations and manipulation of language, Dickinson interrogates received doctrines and develops her own understanding of religion, idiosyncratic employment of the Bible, and definition of language.
Inspired but not dominated by new sciences, natural theology, or transcendentalism, Dickinson cultivates and reinforces her ability to analyze, judge,
and examine things “without respite, without rest, in one direction” but in all directions (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” 179), transcending the confines of both natural theology and optimistic transcendentalism while displaying her “active soul,”
"power of forming great conceptions” and “vehement and inspired passion” (Longinus, “On the Sublime” 80) and intending to be what is advocated in Emerson’s “The American Scholar”— “Man Thinking” (64).
Not conforming to literary traditions, Dickinson enters a realm of artistic experiment, representing a great poet reflecting the individualism and potentiality of American poetry in her age as well as in the modern and postmodern periods. Not making her readers passive receivers of messages or meanings, her idiosyncratic methods in rhyme, language, images, and syntax promote “the sense of palpitant vigor” (Amy Lowell 7) and sublimity, repeatedly challenging, deconstructing, or activating her readers’ thinking and various faculties.
As a self-reliant nonconformist experimenter with a Socratic philosophic spirit, her poetry of “possibility” provokes “polymorphous,” multiple, “psychological” inspirations and creates a subjective, dynamical, and liberatory sublime.