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Emily Dickinson teases the reader with literary allusions and echoes. Reading her poems and letters with sensitivity to ways that they evoke other literary works, sometimes overtly, sometimes in subtle and barely discernible ways, enables us to appreciate her ongoing dialogue with other writers and her creative reworking of their words. Critics have tended to focus on direct quotation, rather than images, sounds, or rhythmical patterns, in gauging literary influence on Dickinson, and perhaps for that reason, they have overlooked allusiveness in her poems that might be more properly termed echo. Drawing on the theory of echo developed by John Hollander, I argue that Dickinson employed allusion and echo—references to the images, sounds, or even cadences of other literary works—to write in an innovative, generative way. Inspired by the personal history of John Keats and his themes of mortality and fame, Dickinson subtly evokes many key images, themes, and sounds from his poems as a way to engage critically with her literary precursor. In contrast, she alludes directly to Shakespeare in her letters, connecting with her correspondents through references to his plays and creating an alternate model of literary fame.


Copyright 2010 by The Johns Hopkins University Press for Emily Dickinson International Society (EDIS)

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The Emily Dickinson Journal

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Petrino, Elizabeth. "Allusion, Echo, and Literary Influence in Emily Dickinson." The Emily Dickinson Journal 19, no. 1 (2010): 80-102. DOI: 10.1353/edj.0.0220



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