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New book examines the emotional power of Emily Dickinson’s poetry

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For Mary Loef­fel­holz, English professor at Northeastern’s Col­lege of Social Sciences and Humanities, Emily Dickinson’s sig­nif­i­cance lies in her ability to relate to readers, par­tic­u­larly in times of sorrow and mourning.

Mary Loef­fel­holz was reading The New York Times a few weeks ago when she came across a lit­erary cri­tique of Bob Dylan, who had recently become the first musi­cian to win the Nobel Prize in lit­er­a­ture. The piece praised Dylan as “one of the most authentic voices America has pro­duced” and then went on to com­pare his lyrics to the poetry of Emily Dick­inson, calling him “a maker of images as auda­cious and res­o­nant as any­thing” in her oeuvre.

Loef­fel­holz, a Dick­inson scholar and Eng­lish pro­fessor at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, found the com­par­ison to be par­tic­u­larly appro­priate. “While both Dylan and Dick­inson based their work on the most common mate­rial,” she says, “they somehow found a way to inject it with the most incred­ible sophis­ti­ca­tion, sur­prise, and terseness.”

Loef­fel­holz is a former board member of the Emily Dick­inson Inter­na­tional Society, which was founded 1988 to pro­mote the study and appre­ci­a­tion of the prodi­gious 19th-century poet. Her second book on Dickinson—published in June and titled The Value of Emily Dick­inson— sheds light on why her poems have con­tinued to live on in the hearts and minds of readers 130 years after her death in 1886. Unlike her first book, Dick­inson and the Bound­aries of Fem­i­nist Theory, it is less schol­arly cri­tique than focused attempt to address the poet’s long­standing lit­erary value.

Read the story at news@Northeastern.

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