Lesson 2: Responding to Emily Dickinson: Poetic Analysis

In this lesson, students will explore Dickinson’s poem “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” both as it was published as well as how it developed through Dickinson’s correspondence with her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. The Dickinsons’ letter manuscripts provide a fascinating insight into the process of Emily Dickinson’s craft, while simultaneously complicating commonly held notions that she was a recluse who wrote purely in isolation. 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.

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.

Guiding Questions

How does Emily Dickinson develop her voice as a poet, especially as reflected in her correspondences with Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson about the poem “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: Recognize Emily Dickinson's poetic style

Articulate Dickinson’s artistic development as reflected in her poetry and correspondence

Discuss Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson’s editorial relationship with Emily Dickinson

Explore the variants of Dickinson’s poem “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”

Reflect upon the concept of artistic persona