Intro Paragraph For second Paper

In her lyric poem “There’s a certain Slant of Light”, Emily Dickinson manipulates the titular slant of light as a metaphysical conceit, exploring the way the ephemeral world damages the speaker in definite ways, despite the lack of physical interaction or evidence. The beam of light acts as a vehicle for any of the elemental forces active on the plane of “internal difference” (7): fear, love, and despair, et al. The poem’s unconventional grammatical structure allows the speaker to explore ambiguity in line readings—both within and between stanzas—and draws forward the blurring of the physical and metaphysical worlds the conceit addresses. Meanwhile, precise diction counterpoises “positively” and “negatively” connoted words, paralleling and magnifying the contrast between the “positive” light and the negative suffering it creates for the speaker. Through their combined magnification these layers of poetic technique create a subtle, poignant bolster for the poem’s articulated argument that an ephemeral object, a “certain slant of light”, has real, if invisible, effects on the speaker’s well being.


One thought on “Intro Paragraph For second Paper

  1. Hi Celine,

    Really good start, but now I’d like to see you aim to be more specific. The driving tension of the poem that you identify — the relationship between the physical and metaphysical — will be very productive for you. For example, in the first sentence you say the light represents how the “ephemeral world” damages the speaker, but I’m not sure from the way you phrased it what you mean by “ephemeral” (or if in fact you are using it incorrectly). Do you mean to say the beam of light is ephemeral (that is, a tangible, physical, but temporary object that dissipates into nothingness) here? Or do you mean to say that the light represents how the transcendent hurts her (in which case ephemeral is not the word you want to use here).

    I wondered if you could also use the poem to help you to identify what the “metaphysical” seems to be here. It might be helpful to acknowledge that the poem is a variation on the ballad form and, as I mentioned in class (but perhaps didn’t emphasize as much as I should have) many hymn also use the ballad form, and Dickinson herself often does that. “I heard a fly buzz,” for example, is a ballad that also seems like a hymn because of the way it reflects on the experience of death, but it does so in shocking ways.

    But it might also be the case that the metaphysical isn’t a simple stand in for God; perhaps the poem is doing something else, too, with the idea of the metaphysical. We can discuss more if you want, but I’d like to see you work through how the “transcendent” might be defined in the poem.


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