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#Dickinson Live

Our next event in #DickinsonLive takes place Friday April 16th, 2 PM EST, via zoom. Members will receive the link; non-members may request it from Marianne Noble at mnoble@american.edu

Speaker: Antoine Cazé, Professeur des Universités, Universités de Paris

Title: “Before I got my eye put out: Emily Dickinson’s Eye Disease Seen from a Pathological Perspective”



Abstract: Cazé explores the links between Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the eye troubles of fall of 1863 to late 1865. The talk is not a psycho-biographical reading of her work. Rather, Cazé seeks to understand how visuality works in her poetry and how it gets expressed simultaneously in linguistic signs and medical symptoms—thus sketching a semiology of the visual, so to speak. We know that Dickinson chose to keep her poetic work largely secret, and that she lived a relatively secluded life. By these means, she shunned the gaze of others, thereby retaining control over this gaze. Cazé posits a continuum between Dickinson’s psychic structure, so far as we can understand it from her writing, and her medical symptoms. He first emphasizes the central part played by mental and physical distance in setting up that structure (note that he does not diagnose Dickinson’s mind—she cannot be a patient, cannot be psychoanalyzed); this distance is made particularly obvious by Dickinson’s reliance on letter writing, which shapes her self-image, or the image of herself she decides to give others. He links her eye disease to an economy of distance, factoring in that she had to be treated far from home during two long stays in Boston. He concludes by examining the tension between the visible and the invisible in several poems.