Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

The Source of Eroticism in Emily Dickinson's Wild Nights! Wild Nights!

Emily Dickinson's "Wild Nights--Wild Nights!" is as enigmatic as it is condensed. Most critics agree that it is an essentially erotic poem, but interpretations vary widely within that shared recognition of its eroticism. There is disagreement as to what motivated Dickinson's eros, toward whom or what she directed that motivation, and even as to what feelings she attempted to convey. With criticisms which run the gamut -- from saying the poem evokes "the quiet, even regressive aftermath of orgiastic release" (Pollack, 185), to labeling it "homoerotic" (Farr, 223) -- it is impossible to imagine a definitive reading upon which everyone can reach a consensus. Still, to anyone who has felt the underlying emotional tension in Dickinson's "Wild Nights!" it seems incongruous to hear James L. Dean describe the poem as "less-provocative" (92) simply because the final "Thee" may be addressing the metaphorical sea rather than a particular lover. To come to that conclusion would require one to suppose that an anticipated tryst between individuals is somehow more provocative than a seething sexual tension that springs from nature directly into the human psyche. It...

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