Publication details [#564]

Kohler, Michelle. 2012. The Apparatus of the Dark: Emily Dickinson and the Epistemology of Metaphor. Nineteenth-Century Literature 67 (1) : 58–86. 29 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Oakland: University of California Press


The paper investigates Emily Dickinson's engagement with the epistemological debate of her time, in particular with the rejection of any notion of fixed truth that followed the inception of evolutionary theory, by focusing on poetic form, and more specifically on metaphor. The author analyses several metaphors belonging to a set of poems from the early 1860s through the early 1870s, which amplify the distinctions between two material entities, such as lightning and fork. Although such metaphors itemise and classify the entities in a way that is close to the Baconian scientist's approach, Dickinson does not consider this as a step towards the discovery of a stable truth, or the existence of a divine order. However, she does not abandon the idea that empirical methods might reveal spiritual truth. According to Kohler, Dickinson considers the possibility of a revised version of revelation or truth, which derives from the observation of the difference foregrounded by the two parts of a metaphor, and at the same time is contingent on the perpetuity of such dual perception.