Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Long perceived as a recluse who wrote purely in isolation, Emily Dickinson in reality maintained many dynamic correspondences throughout her lifetime and specifically sought out dialogues on her poetry. These correspondences—both professional and private—reveal a poet keenly aware of the interdependent relationship between poet and reader. In this lesson, students closely examine Dickinson’s poem “There’s a certain slant of light” in order to understand her craft. Students explore different components of Dickinson’s poetry and then practice their own critical and poetry writing skills in an emulation exercise. Finally, in the spirit of Dickinson’s correspondences, students will exchange their poems and offer informed critiques of each others’ work.
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, Emulate Emily, 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.
If students have completed the curriculum unit, you can assess them using this rubric.
Ask students to submit a portfolio of their work, including their essays, their letter, their poem, and their worksheet with their poem critique. Assess them based on the rubric below, granting point values as preferred.
Have the students read the poem "Emily Dickinson" by contemporary poet Linda Pastan. The poem is available from Titanic Operas, Folio 1 on the Dickinson Electronic Archives through the EDSITEment reviewed Academy of American Poets site. Note how Pastan addresses and then challenges the myth of Dickinson. Ask the students to consider how Pastan responds to Dickinson's poetry and her image and how she expresses her views through her poem. Then, have your students pen a poem that reflects their perceptions of Dickinson and her influence on them.
1-2 class periods