The first section of the following bibliography cites works from Dickinson studies that discuss specific poems included on this site and the relationship between Susan and Emily. The second section cites works from colonial/postcolonial studies. The annotations of these studies are not so much summaries as suggestions for how theoretical frameworks in colonial/postcolonial studies might be used to think about Dickinson. The third section provides links to related web resources.

Dickinson studies:

  • Burbick, Joan. "Emily Dickinson and the Economics of Desire." American Literature 58:3 (October 1986). [Note: the link will only work for users who have access to JSTOR.]
    Burbick's article, one of the first to read Dickinson within a political context, suggests that "through what might be called her 'economics of desire,' Dickinson describes longing in terms of poverty and wealth, loss and gain." According to Burbick, Dickinson's poems both "mimic and deprecate the mercantilist vision of her social class," and Burbick's study lays groundwork for a study of desire and colonialism in Dickinson.

  • Erkkila, Betsy. "Homoeroticism and Audience: Emily Dickinson's Female 'Master.'" Dickinson and Audience. Ed. Martin Orzeck and Robert Weisbuch. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996. 161-180.
    Erkkila traces Dickinson's relationship with Sue, noting the past critical habit of erasing the relationship. Erkkila insists that this "transgressive desire" was central in Dickinson's life and work.

  • Howe, Susan. My Emily Dickinson Berkeley: U of California P, 1985.
    In an imaginative, elegiac reading of Dickinson, poet Susan Howe offers a view of Dickinson that is passionate and unlike traditional academic studies of Dickinson.

  • Patterson, Rebecca. Emily Dickinson's Imagery. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P., 1979.
    A richly detailed study that includes a chapter on "Emily Dickinson's Geography" that teases out many possible meanings and allusions for place names in Dickinson's poems.

  • Smith, Martha Nell. Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson. Austin: U of Texas P, 1992.
    An important reassessment of Dickinson relationship with Susan, this study examines Dickinson's original manuscripts and the deliberate cuts, erasures, and mutilations of the pieces of paper themselves.

  • Werner, Marta. Emily Dickinson's Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.
    Werner studies and provides facsimiles of forty of Dickinsons' late manuscripts, and seeks to "reveal the spectacular complexity of the textual situation circa 1870, which has been all but erased by the editorial interventions and print conventions of the present century" (2).

Colonial/Postcolonial studies:
  • Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Random House, 1978.
    One of the founding texts to study colonial discourse, Said's book is useful for thinking about Dickinson's references to foreign lands because he articulates clearly and eloquently the role of the imagination in shaping our sense of geography, and especially "foreign" lands. He notes that all people establish familiar space which is "ours" and unfamiliar space that is "theirs," and that "all kinds of suppositions, associations, and fictions appear to crowd the unfamiliar space outside one's own" (54 in paperback edition). To understand Dickinson's references, we need to know what "suppositions, associations, and fictions" might have shaped her thinking, and U.S. thought in general, about the lands of Latin America and the East that she invokes so often.

  • Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991.
    Sommer's book studies the mid-nineteenth-century romance novels of Latin America that appeared just when nation-building was at its most intense in the region. Although there is nothing to suggest Dickinson encountered much if any Latin American literature, Sommer's book is useful as a source for understanding the literary voices of Latin America that were contemporaneous with Dickinson. The book is also useful because it makes visible an important contrast between nationalism and romance novels, on the one hand, and Dickinson's use of foreign lands to write about love, on the other. The nationalist romance, Sommer argues, promotes national ideals "ostensibly grounded in 'natural' heterosexual love" and in the marriages that provide novelistic closure and an "end of desire beyond which the narratives refuse to go" (6). By contrast, there is no "end of desire" in Dickinson, and instead of stability, consummation, and closure, her poems and letters on love are more often about yearning, unsated desire, and loss. Although Dickinson invokes the tropes of conquest and refers to lands in the midst of building national identities, she rejects the narratives of completion and foundations offered either by colonizers or by the newly independent nations of Latin America.

  • Young, Robert J. C. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. New York: Routledge, 1995.
    Young defines "colonial desire" as "a covert but insistent obsession with transgressive, inter-racial sex, hybridity and miscegenation," and he suggests that the culture of the colonizers is "riven by its own alterity" (xii). Young's thesis develops from a study of narratives about love across racial borders, but his definition might also be useful for thinking about Dickinson's transgressive love for Susan. As the military conquistador falls in love with the female other (the native Indian woman and the feminized land of gems and waterfalls), so Dickinson envisions Susan as an expensive Peru, thus borrowing and rewriting the romance of colonial conquest.

Electronic Resources:

  • Folsom, Ed and Kenneth M. Price, eds. "Dickinson, Slavery, and the San Domingo Moment."
    Arguing that in the nineteenth century references to "San Domingo" (site of a successful slave revolt ) and "domingo" were "as fraught with a kind of cultural baggage equivalent to words like 'Viet Nam' or 'Nicaragua' for us," Folsom and Price question traditional depictions of Dickinson and her poetry as apolitical and disengaged from the issue of slavery.
  • Smith, Martha Nell, ed.. The Dickinson Electronic Archives.
    An extensive archive of Dickinson materials. Particularly important are the archives' images of Dickinson manuscripts. "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem" edited by Smith and Lara Vetter, explores the collaborative writing practices of Dickinson and her sister-in-law Susan.