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‫אתר שאולי יעזור לי למצוא קרנות‬

A woman — white — to be”

Politics of subjectivity and gender in Emily Dickinson’s poetry

Abstract The essay explores the issue of Emily Dickinson’s participation

in the ongoing social debate on subjectivity and gender in nineteenth-
century America. This was a pivotal time for middle-class women who, as
subjects and agents of the Cult of True Womanhood, a gender-related
ideology dominating the era, had to meet contradictory expectations to
maintain their social status. Dickinson, despite her habitual withdrawal
from public life, appears to be well-informed about these and other issues
of social reform. Although she has been charged as elitist and insensitive
to disadvantaged social groups, I will argue that Dickinson displays a keen
understanding of the problematics of (dis)advantage, and power. While
the poet may have been less concerned with the plight of slaves or
immigrants, she nevertheless closely scrutinizes the seemingly privileged
class of white middle-class American women. I hope to show through the
analysis of some of her poems, most importantly “A Charm invests a
face” (Fr 430), how Dickinson critiques the image of the True Woman
through the rhetorical means of her unique language and how she
ultimately reveals the vulnerability and illusory nature of the privileges
enjoyed by this class of women.