Emily Dickinson offers a succinct vision of woman's relationship with the natural landscape as one of housewife to home--one in which the poetic and the practical coexist. Although seemingly in keeping with gentle, domestic relationships with nature, in which the environment outside the home is experienced as a safe, tamed-garden version of the interior life Victorian women supposedly led, Dickinson's poem leads us to contemplate our definitions of female roles and the natural world, and the metaphors we use to understand our relationship to the world. As with most Dickinson poems, the image contains both text and subtext. The traditional role of Victorian women as household managers is subverted when the housewife inadvertently creates "dust" in her cleaning, and the leavings of her efforts enrich the world. Just as the image liberates women, it also liberates nature by suggesting that imperfection is as beautiful as perfection.
The University of Chicago Press
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Feminism, Women and Nature, Emily Dickinson
Signs, Vol. 12, No. 4, Within and Without: Women, Gender, and Theory (Summer, 1987), pp. 740-760