Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Dickinson’s letters expose a poet fully engaged in the process of crafting a persona. In a note to Higginson in the first year of their correspondence, Dickinson wrote, “When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person.” For students of writing and literature, who often struggle to develop a distinctive voice and then to modify that voice for different audiences, Dickinson’s dialogues offer an instructive model. Ultimately, reading Emily Dickinson’s letters alongside her poems helps students to better appreciate a remarkable voice in American literature, grasp how Dickinson perceived herself and her poetry, and—perhaps most relevant to their own endeavors—consider the ways in which a writer constructs a “supposed person.”
For a complete introduction to the three lessons in this curriculum unit, Letters from Emily Dickinson: “Will you be my preceptor?” review the curriculum unit overview.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to
Review the curriculum unit overview and the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download the pdf worksheet, Emily Says, and cut out each individual quotation for distribution to student groups. If necessary, download and print out any other documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
Have students submit their one or two page response to Higginson’s article about Emily Dickinson. You might ask them to revise and update their response paper based on the day’s discussion. Alternatively, ask students to write a short interpretation of one of the two poems in the “Extending the Lesson” section: "Fame is fickle food" or "Success is counted sweetest."
If teaching the entire curriculum unit, teachers should ask students to submit all work in the form of a final portfolio, which may be evaluated based on the overarching curriculum unit assessment rubric found in the third lesson.
1-2 class periods