Push the Envelope: An Alternative to Testing and the Teaching of Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts
Beginning with the premise that the object in which a student encounters a poem is itself an instructor of reading, the paper began with an investigation of one of the most “encountered” Emily Dickinson poems in a scene of contemporary poetry reading: the AP English Literature classroom. The poem, “We grow accustomed to the night,” is ubiquitous in this context because it is one of two paired poems in an AP English Literature Exam published by the College Board. The paper proposes that poetry pedagogy should challenge contemporary student readers of poems to investigate other spaces the poem can occupy, rendering students as producers of alternate relationships to Emily Dickinson’s language beyond those made possible to them by the examiners of College Board. Turning to Dickinson manuscript scholarship on fragments and repurposed materials, this paper responds to desire for newer instructions for poetry reading, imagining a dis-assembling and subtractive pedagogy that seeks to uncover and unravel in order to restore the animus to create and make.
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