On the Bleakness of My Lot

On the bleakness of my lot
Bloom I strove to raise.
Late, my acre of a rock
Yielded grape and maize.

Soil of flint if steadfast tilled
Will reward the hand;
Seed of palm by Lybian sun
Fructified in sand.

— Emily Dickinson


  1. Kathleen Wallace says

    My study applies Reception Theory to the responses of Emily Dickinson’s earliest readers. Though Dickinson ultimately chose not to publish her work, I contend that she did seek a literary response to it. She chose to correspond with a number of prominent literary figures at the time when she was writing most prolifically and indeed directly approached a stranger, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to seek an opinion as to the quality of her poems. I demonstrate in my study that Dickinson had an ambivalent attitude towards publication but that her eventual rejection of it was informed by the responses of her earliest readers.

    I apply the theories of Reception Theorists, Hans Robert Jauss, Levin Schucking and Wolfgang Iser to these responses. Jauss argues that the development of literary response is characterised by qualitative jumps and discontinuities. In my study I explore the points of departure between Dickinson’s personal interpretive paradigm and the nineteenth-century one. Schucking writes about the specific institutions which constitute the ‘taste-propagating type’. Many of those Dickinson was corresponding with fell into this category. Iser and Jauss agree that a reader has his or her own ‘horizon of expectations’ and I examine how the success of each reader’s engagement with Dickinson’s work was linked to their ability to transcend this. I also consider how the early editing of her work constituted an interpretation of it and I compare and contrast her work with some poetry of the time to decipher just how different it was.

    Reception Theory is an illuminating critical theory to apply to Dickinson’s work both in the light of its posthumous reception and because of her own ideas, evident in both her letters and poems, on the aspects of reading and reception, ideas which in fact seem to anticipate those of Reception Theorists.

  2. Henri Young says

    I apply Receptionist Theory to Emily Dickinson. How her job as a receptionist (in the same firm where Wallace Stevens worked) allowed plenty of time between calls to jot down her little poems.

  3. I thought reception theory had to do with why channel 2 never comes in as well as channel 6.

  4. Wallace Stevens says

    I placed a jar in Tennessee,
    And round it was, upon a hill.
    It made the slovenly wilderness
    Surround that hill.

    The wilderness rose up to it,
    And sprawled around, no longer wild.
    The jar was round upon the ground
    And tall and of a port in air.

    It took dominion every where.
    The jar was gray and bare.
    It did not give of bird or bush,
    Like nothing else in Tennessee.

  5. Sherman Alexie says

    There is no possible way to sell your soul for poetry because nobody’s offering. The devil doesn’t care about poetry. No one wants to make a movie out of a poem.

  6. Jonathan Webb says

    Did Wally chase her around the desk? Did she have to wear running shoes?

  7. Alison VonDerLand says

    I bet if Emily were alive today, she’d have her own poetry blog.

  8. Hello! Super work performed. Top PAGE, further so!

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