Monday, April 20, 2015

Update on the book: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Progress on the book screeched to a halt during spring break a few weeks ago and remains stopped, more or less. The end of the spring semester is always the busiest time of year for students, faculty, and college life overall. I will start again on the book (as well as Pierce Institute matters, which are year-round, and some other writing projects) in full force after I finish grading finals.

Before spring break, I started working on Emily Dickinson's use of the parables in her poetry and letters. That was a daunting task for me, because I know very little about poetry, other than biblical poetry. As a result, I read a significant amount of her poetry and used numerous secondary resources to help me understand it better (I just counted; I have 29 books from or about Dickinson checked out from the library, and I worked through them all--a bit of an overkill, perhaps). Needless to say, I learned a lot.

Over the past few weeks, though, I have carved out small spaces of time to work on the book. Last Friday night and Saturday during the day, for example, I tried to complete (finally!) the section of the book on Dickinson. I finished it on Saturday evening, and the section currently stands at 2415 words (I need to cut at least 400 words and probably more). 

This section on Dickinson was the 48th section I have written for the book (almost all the sections are rough first drafts and all sections are way too long, so much work remains on the manuscript--a caveat added here for the benefit of my beloved editor).

I started my research on Dickinson by looking at her use of the parables in her poetry. It is there--especially in the 40th Fascicle--but, more importantly,  Dickinson's poetry itself is parabolic in many ways, such as in comparison to how parables are said to work in Mark 4:11-12. 

I will also write more on this later, but Dickinson's poetry, like the parables, can be indirect, polyvalent, and circuitous (cf. Dorian 1996: 107-109). 

As one of Dickinson's more famous poems says:


Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

Compare Eugene Peterson's book on the parables, Tell it Slant, who notes a similar thing.


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