BOTANICAL ALLUSIONS AND SENSORY IMAGERY IN EMILY DICKINSON: A Stimulation of the Five Senses
Bode, A.B.G. de
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Emily Dickinson’s life revolved around an expansive interest in botany. From a young age, Dickinson pursued gardening whilst also being educated in the natural sciences. Her affinity for botanical studies is reflected in her writing, in which numerous of flowers and plants are mentioned. Dickinson was preoccupied with nature in its entirety; in her poetry she describes natural phenomena utilising vivid imagery which appeals to the senses of the reader. The botanical allusions in Dickinson’s poetry function as a means to evoke these senses. The current study aims to analyse the impact of botanical allusions and the use of imagery on the senses of the reader in Dickinson’s poetry, by providing an in-depth textual analysis of three of her poems: “I tend my flowers for thee”, “Come slowly, Eden!” and “They have a little Odor – that to me”. During this analysis, botanical allusions and sensory imagery are highlighted. As a result, the botanical allusions in combination with the use of imagery are found to evoke the five senses of the reader, resulting in a multisensory experience of the poem. As a secondary focus on the study, the potential epistemological effect of botanical references in Dickinson’s poetry is studied by analysing the scientific knowledge reflected in her poetry, as well as by conducting literary research on the history of poetic botany. As a result, the occurrence of botanical terminology and knowledge imbedded in Dickinson’s poetry is found to convey scientific knowledge to the reader, and thus serve as a form of didactic poetry.