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Tom Patterson. Emily Dickinson’s Pivot of the Dao[J]. International Comparative Literature, 2019, 2(2): 224-245.
Citation: Tom Patterson. Emily Dickinson’s Pivot of the Dao[J]. International Comparative Literature, 2019, 2(2): 224-245.

Emily Dickinson’s Pivot of the Dao

  • Received Date: 2018-12-12
  • Publish Date: 2021-03-09
  • More and more articles have been published encouraging the use of a Chinese lens on Dickinson’s poetry (e.g. Kang, Uno, Chen and Patterson). This paper will use a Daoist lens to show how her writing captures a multitude of often contradictory perspectives in a number of conceptual areas. Her embracing this wide range of perspectives, as viewed in the classic Daoist text, the Zhuangzi, reflects a search for greater knowledge. Dickinson graphically refers to this broad business of hers as“circumference.” While Emily Dickinson has been criticized by some for her“homelessness,” for her poems having no center, no whole, yet from a Daoist viewpoint this criticism can be recalibrated into words of praise. When viewed through a Daoist lens her perspectivism reveals her skepticism, and her ability to hold more than one perspective in mind at the same time, both ways of looking at the world that Daoists, as expressed in the Zhuangzi, view as characteristic of higher wisdom. From a Daoist point of view each perspective, rather than compounding contradictions, is more accurately viewed as additional spokes added to the wheel of perspectives, the circumference that she so often mentions.
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