Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Emily Dickinson remains recognized as one of greatest poets of the American literature canon. The majority of her work, while often considered dark and abstract, was unread by anyone else in her lifetime. Why then would she choose to create such a large volume of troubled writing in secret? This thesis project explores this question using a psychological lens, and examines the work for any possible therapeutic effects it may have had on Dickinson. The project further suggests that Dickinson suffered from clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and extreme personality disorders. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) II is used throughout to support these claims.) This thesis explores four common themes found within Dickinson’s poetry including death, child imagery, powerlessness, and anger. These themes are related to events in the poet’s life that may have sparked such feelings. Several poems are given as examples for each theme, and through a close reading, are thoroughly analyzed to gain a clearer insight into any possible intention. The project concludes that Dickinson wrote as a form of therapy in an attempt to heal emotionally as well as maintain her sanity.
Wolfley, Jennifer, "Emily Dickinson: The Concept of Catharsis" (1995). English Master’s Theses. 104.