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Faber, M.D. (1969). Psychoanalytic Remarks on a Poem By Emily Dickinson. Psychoanal. Rev., 56B(2):247-264.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56B(2):247-264

Psychoanalytic Remarks on a Poem By Emily Dickinson

M. D. Faber, Ph.D.

My life closed twice before its close;

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.


I want to subject this justly famous lyric to what might be called a classical Freudian analysis, and I want to do this because I believe that such an analysis, by suggesting meanings which have not hitherto been suggested in the criticism, can broaden, perhaps even deepen, our appreciation of the poem. The chief business of criticism, as I see it, is to focus upon the literary creation every conceivable light: biographical, textual, sociohistorical, psychological, bibliographical, and so forth. No single approach can exhaust a work's interpretative potential. And when a single, specialized approach is used, the limitations of the study ought to be made clear and explicit.

Here, I will not attempt to clarify Miss Dickinson's accomplishment in the neo-New Critical vein; I will not attempt to explore this lyric as a “metaphorical contraption,” or a “watertight compartment of words,” or a “function of limited meanings,” or an “organic order.”

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