Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This study examines both the form and content of three letters by Emily Dickinson commonly referred to by scholars as the "Master" letters. A consideration of the critical work that has been done on these texts to date, in addition to contextualizing these letters within the larger field of Dickinson's creative work and correspondence, leads me to conclude that Daisy and Master are textual figures who are both integral to an understanding of Dickinson's exploration of the nature of gender, power, and self-hood in the context of human relations. Similarly, the form of these texts is a testament to Dickinson's attempt to examine these issues in terms of a single character's psyche while simultaneously disrupting the boundaries between poetry and prose, public and private and fiction and fact. However, because Dickinson's examination focuses solely on the anguished persona of Daisy, I believe that these letters should be renamed the "Daisy" letters to acknowledge this character's centrality to the texts and their meaning. Unlike the many Dickinson scholars who have sought to unmask "Master," my argument suggests a new alternative: that not only is the search for the identity of the letter's recipient of little importance and reward, but that such investigations neglect to consider the nature of the texts themselves, which point to a conclusion that the letters are fictional epistles. While my position springboards from Albert Gelpi's argument that Master has no identity grounded in reality per se, my feminist critical approach leads me to centre my argument in the politics of self-hood and in a literary form which both requires and examines a performative self created and maintained only through language. This study advocates a different way of looking at the "Daisy" letters in an effort to begin a new discussion of these texts, where the letters are not evidence of a woman in love but of an artist at work.
Rosevere, Nicole, "Letters Never Sent: Emily Dickinson's "Daisy" Letters as Epistolary Fiction." (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6456.
McMaster University Library