I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Mr. Qi Liang, my supervisor, not only for his illuminating instructions and invaluable suggestions to the completion of this paper, but more importantly, for his rigorous scholarship and professional conscientiousness. I am also indebted to all my teachers in USTS, whose wonderful lectures on different subjects pave me the way for the fundamental and essential academic competence. I owe my sincere gratitude to my classmates and friends who offered inspiring advices and generous help for this paper. My appreciation should also go to my beloved parents who gave me unselfish and persistent support during my four years’ university life.
Among the numerous studies of Emily Dickinson in China and abroad, there has been few from the perspective of ecocriticism. Ecocriticism aims at exploring the link between literature and natural environment to find out the ecological wisdom in literary works so as to awaken the ecological consciousness of contemporaries. American poetess Emily Dickinson composed 1775 poem during her lifetime, of which nature poems accounting for about 500. By reading her nature poems from ecological approach, it is not difficult to discern her concern and love for nature, her respect and reverence for nature, and her idea of poetical dwelling on earth. In view of the current deteriorating environmental conditions, the ecological thoughts implied in Dickinson’s nature poems are a hint for protecting environment and maintaining a harmonious relationship between human beings and nature.
Keywords: Emily Dickinson; nature poems; ecocriticism; ecological thoughts
An Ecological Reading
of Emily Dickinson’s Nature Poems
A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
That day. (Poem 1212) 
This poem seems to be Emily Dickinson’s prophecy of all her poems. Her poems, upon “being said”, are not “dead”. On the contrary, her poems are still being read today and will continue to be appreciated. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is commonly recognized as one of the greatest poets in American literature. She emerged as a powerful and persistent figure in American culture. As a woman poet, Dickinson has been depicted as singular and enigmatic and even eccentric. Often, Dickinson is pictured as a young woman in white, restrained in the upper room of her home, isolated not only from her neighbors and friends, but also from the historical and cultural events taking place outside her door. Maybe it is because of her long time solitude that she reflected upon poetry and found poetry the most effective expression of her thoughts. Her poems talk most perceptibly of “the Heaven of God,” “the starkest Madness,” or the “Infinite” rather than of worldly events. She has been viewed as agoraphobic, deeply afraid of her surroundings, and as a peculiar spinster. Meanwhile, Dickinson is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of American poetry and innovative pre-modernist poet as well as a rebellious and courageous woman (Martin 2004:1). One of the most often quoted facts of Emily Dickinson’s life is that scarcely any of her poems were published in her lifetime but won appreciation and recognition after her death. Although she wrote to the writer and editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to ask his opinion of her poetry, she did not openly seek publication, and most of the poems published during her lifetime were submitted by Dickinson’s friends, not by the poet herself. In 1858, she began to record poems in folded...
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