Close Reading American Literature

Emily Dickinson & Religion

For my close reading assignment, I’ve decided to write about Emily Dickinson’s “Faith is a Fine Invention” and “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky.” Personally, I had a very tough time with the introductory paragraph and would love some input from my fellow peers:

For Emily Dickinson, faith was always a struggle. The clashing views between science and religion continuously ate at her throughout her life. She constantly strived to find the answers to the big questions in life, such as, “Does God exist?” or “What happens to us after we die?” Although Dickinson is known to this day for her continuous endeavors in her faith all her life, her works manage to perfectly portray her spiritual conflicts in her writing. Her poetry questions the limitations of God through scientific means, such as in “Faith is a Fine Invention,” where Dickinson compares faith to an invention, and also in “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky,” where she states that the human brain is comparative to God. Dickinson’s poetry, at its core, can then be said to be a testimony of the conflict between science and religion.

Any input would be highly appreciated!

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6 thoughts on “Emily Dickinson & Religion

  1. Your intro paragraph keeps everything simple and to the point, which can be extremely difficult to do.Your thesis, “Dickinson’s poetry, at its core, can then be said to be a testimony of the conflict between science and religion” could be refined a little but after you start writing your paper you will go back to make edits anyway, (Most of us never actually do what their intro says they will- myself at the forefront of this lol).

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    1. To echo vhayes056, I agree that the thesis needs refining, and I think the direction you chose to go in (towards a conclusion that ultimately Dickinson is in search of truth and does not know whether to go to religion or science for that) is more specific and productive.

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  2. So my question would be: Is your argument to agree with Emily Dickinson in terms of God’s well being and what occurs in the after life if there really is one?
    If so I think you should ask yourself if you agree or disagree Emily Dickinson. If you agree perhaps state a personal opinion on Faith. From there try to conclude if you there is a similarity in what you are either negating or appreciating. Thus ask yourself the same questions that Emily asked herself and dive more into if what you were raised to know and or not know and see if it resembles your perspective on life. Think about if the connections you have made either altered throughout your life before reading Emily Dickinson or has the interpretation of Emily Dickinson altered your thoughts afterwards?

    Remember to ask yourself the overall question: What does Faith mean to me? Then vs Now.

    Hope this helps. Good luck on your paper.

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    1. While certainly it is important to reflect for oneself where one falls in the debate that a paper participates in, I don’t think it is wise to include that personal debate in an academic paper for your final assignment. Keep reflections limited to the blog post format. Focus primarily (and solely) on your analysis of Dickinson’s poetry in your final, formal paper.

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  3. You need to figure out if you personally agree or disagree with Emily Dickson idea that the human brain is identical to god and faith is a fine invention. If you agree i would suggest writing a personal passage on how faith was significant in your life or why you feel the human brain is in the very image of god. This will help you interact with the passage. If you disagree with the passage try and use other texts that shows a contradiction to that idea. I think it’s pretty much accepted that Emily Dickson poetry is a connection to science and god so I don’t think you need to prove that.

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    1. I would caution against writing a personal passage in the paper about your own opinion in this debate. It’s hard enough to focus your analysis on Dickinson’s debate that that alone will easily take up 8-10 pages. For a formal paper, it’s very difficult to write a personal agree/disagree argument that is astute, well-researched, and based in literature. I highly recommend you avoid writing agree/disagree thesis statements at ALL costs. They often get reductive, sound like high school writing more so than college level writing, and don’t offer very nuanced close readings of literature.

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