Gender Identities in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson and in the Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass

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GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 28 pages
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Seminar paper from the year 2005 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 65%, University of Reading (Department of English and American Literature), course: Writing America 2, 11 entries in the bibliography, language: English, comment: This essay was part of a seminar called "Writing America 2" which a attended at the University of Reading, GB., abstract: Before we deal with gender identity it is first of all important to understand the definition of gender. The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature explains it as follows: "Gender is different from sexuality [sic!]. Sexuality concerns physical and biological differences that distinguish males from females. Cultures construct differences in gender. These social constructions attach themselves to behaviors, expectations, roles, representations, and sometimes to values and beliefs that are specific to either men and women." In this following paper I'm going to analyse the different gender identities appearing in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.1 My main focus is concentrated on the use and description of gender in both genres. How are gender identities characterized and how do we get to know them? Which gender does Dickinson use in the chosen poems and how are their identities constructed? Referring to Douglass it is interesting to look at how he constitutes himself as an identity. Referring to Emily Dickinson, I chose several poems, like "I'm "wife" - I've finished that-," "I felt my life with both hands," "A Wife- at Daybreak I shall be," "I was the slightest in the House-" and "I tie my Hat." Gender Identities in Emily Dickinson's Poetry In the lyric poem there is for the most part no description of who is speaking, no embodiment, no development, no introduced "character." For example, Dickinson's various personae or self-positionings as "Earl," "Wife" or "Queen" are known either only by the tone and manner of the text or by self-naming within t
 

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Page 7 - I look upon my departure from Colonel Lloyd's plantation as one of the most interesting events of my life. It is possible, and even quite probable, that but for the mere circumstance of being removed from that plantation to Baltimore, I should have to-day, instead of being here seated by my own table, in the enjoyment of freedom and the happiness of home, writing this Narrative, been confined in the galling chains of slavery.
Page 7 - You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.
Page 7 - I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty — to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.
Page 7 - ... and ignorance in order to achieve righteousness and a knowledge of the saving grace of God. In the slave narrative the quest is toward freedom from physical bondage and the enlightenment that literacy can offer to the restricted self- and social consciousness of the slave. Both the fugitive slave narrator and the black spiritual autobiographer trace their freedom back to an awakening of their awareness of their fundamental identity with and rightful participation in logos, whether understood...
Page 7 - ... apparent in the pervasive use of journey or quest motifs that symbolize multiple layers of spiritual evolution. In black spiritual autobiography the protagonist wishes to escape sinfulness and ignorance in order to achieve righteousness and a knowledge of the saving grace of God. In the slave narrative the quest is toward freedom from physical bondage and the enlightenment that literacy can offer to the restricted self- and social consciousness of the slave.
Page 7 - ... that but for the mere circumstance of being removed from that plantation to Baltimore, I should have to-day, instead of being here seated by my own table, in the enjoyment of freedom and the happiness of home, writing this Narrative, been confined in the galling chains of slavery. Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.
Page 6 - ... reading and writing was no mean thing in the life of a slave. Learning to read and write meant that this person of African descent took one giant step up the Great Chain of Being; the "thing
Page 6 - The wife goes on to identify her situation as a "soft Eclipse," a kind of "Heaven" in comparison to the "Earth" of the girl's life; from this perspective, wifedom looks "safer

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