Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Literary Semantics

An International Review

Founded by Eaton, Trevor

Ed. by Toolan, Michael

2 Issues per year


CiteScore 2017: 0.38

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.122
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.575

Online
ISSN
1613-3838
See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 44, Issue 2

Issues

Emily Dickinson’s “My life had stood a loaded gun” – An interdisciplinary analysis

Matthias Bauer / Nadine Bade / Sigrid Beck / Carmen Dörge / Burkhard von Eckartsberg / Janina Niefer / Saskia Ottschofski / Angelika Zirker
Published Online: 2015-10-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2015-0010

Abstract

In this article we analyse Emily Dickinson’s poem “My life had stood a loaded gun” using a specific methodology that combines linguistic and literary theory. The first step is a textual analysis with the methods of compositional semantics. The second step is a literary analysis enriching the literal meaning with information about the wider context of the poem. The division of these two steps reflects the distinction between an objective interpretation of the text based solely on the rules of grammar and a subjective reading which draws on various external fields of reference. In combining both steps, we show why some interpretations of the poem are more plausible than others and how different lines of interpretation are related to each other. However, it is not our aim to provide one definite interpretation of the poem or to favour one reading over the others. Rather, we wish to show how Dickinson’s use of specific grammatical mechanisms leads to a number of interpretations which are more or less plausible. That is, we identify plausible interpretations on the basis of grammatical evidence, and we relate these to each other by pointing at instances in the poem where a divergence of interpretations is possible (cases of ambiguity, for example). This method is helpful for literary studies since formal linguistics helps produce a systematic and non-arbitrary analysis, and it is helpful for linguistic analysis since it uncovers which violations of grammar do or do not disturb the interpretative process, and which kind of structures need pragmatic enrichment.

Keywords: compositional semantics; methodology; literary analysis

References

  • Bauer, Markus, Matthias Bauer, Sigrid Beck, Carmen Dörge, Burkhard von Eckartsberg, Michaela Meder, Katja Riedel, Janina Zimmermann & Angelika Zirker. 2010. ‘The two coeval come’: Emily Dickinson and ambiguity. LiLi 40(158). 98–124.Google Scholar

  • Bauer, Matthias. 2006. ‘A Word made Flesh’: Anmerkungen zum lebendigen Wort bei Emily Dickinson. In Volker Kapp & Dorothea Scholl (ed.), Bibeldichtung, 373–392. Berlin: Duncker und Humblot.Google Scholar

  • Bauer, Matthias & Sigrid Beck. 2014. On the Meaning of Fictional Texts. In D. Gutzmann, J. Köpping & C. Meier (eds.), Approaches to Meaning, 250–275. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Bauer, Matthias & Sigrid Beck. 2009. Interpretation: Local Composition and Textual Meaning. In Michaela Albl-Mikasa, Sabine Braun & Sylvia Kalina (eds.), Dimensionen der Zweisprachenforschung / Dimensions of Second Language Research: Festschrift für Kurt Kohn, 289–300. Tübingen: Narr.Google Scholar

  • Beck, Sigrid & Uli Sauerland. 2000. Cumulation is Needed: A Reply to Winter. Natural Language Semantics 8. 349–371.Google Scholar

  • Beck, Sigrid & Arnim von Stechow. 2006. Dog after Dog Revisited. In Christian Ebert & Cornelia Endriss (eds.), Proceedings of the Sinn und Bedeutung 10, 43–54. Oslo: University of Oslo; Berlin: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft.Google Scholar

  • Crane, Stephen. 1995. Flanagan and his Short Filibustering Adventure (1897). Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Deirdre Johnson (corrector). http://xtf.lib.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=modern_english/uvaGenText/tei/CraFlan.xml (accessed 11 Jan 2012).

  • Franklin, R. W. 1986. The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson. Amherst: Amherst College Press.Google Scholar

  • Franklin, R. W. 1998. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar

  • Freeman, Margaret. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Dickinson’s Metaphors. In Gudrun Grabher (ed.), The Emily Dickinson Handbook, 258–272. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar

  • Frege, Gottlob. 1892. Über Sinn und Bedeutung. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik NF 100. 25–50.Google Scholar

  • Hagenbüchle, Roland. 1984. The concept of ambiguity in linguistics and literary criticism. In Richard J. Watts & Urs Weidmann (eds.), Modes of Interpretations: Essays Presented to Ernst Leisi on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, 213–221. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.Google Scholar

  • Heim, Irene & Angelika Kratzer. 1998. Semantics in Generative Grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Herbert, George. 2007. The English Poems of George Herbert. Helen Wilcox (ed.). Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar

  • Horace. 2005. Ars Poetica. A. S. Kline (ed. and transl.).http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/HoraceArsPoetica.htm (accessed 14 April 2011).

  • Horace. 2004. Odes and Epodes. The Loeb Classical Library 33. Niall, Rudd (ed. and transl.). Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Johnson, Thomas H. (ed.). 1955. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar

  • Johnson, Thomas H. (ed.). 1961. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York: Back Bay Books.Google Scholar

  • Jüngel, Eberhard. 1993. Tod. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Mohn.Google Scholar

  • Kratzer, Angelika. 1991. Modality. In Arnim von Stechow & Dieter Wunderlich (eds.), Semantik/Semantics: Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung, 639–651. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Leiter, Sharon. 2007. Critical Companion to Emily Dickinson: A Literary Reference to her Life and Work. New York: Facts On File.Google Scholar

  • Link, Godehard. 1991. Plural. In Arnim von Stechow & Dieter Wunderlich (eds.), Semantik/Semantics: Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer Forschung, 418–440. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • López Maestre, María D. 2015. ‘Man the hunter’: a critical reading of hunt-based conceptual metaphors of love and sexual desire. Journal of Literary Semantics, 44(2). this issue.Google Scholar

  • Miller, Christanne. 1987. Emily Dickinson: A Poet’s Grammar. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Montague, Richard. 1973. The Proper Treatment of Quantification in Ordinary English. In K. J. J. Hintikka, J. M. E. Moravcsik & P. Suppes (eds.), Approaches to Natural Language, 221–242. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar

  • Ouida. 1871. Under Two Flags, vol. 1. Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz. 2 vols.Google Scholar

  • Ovid. 1980. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Mary M. Innes (ed. and transl.). London: Penguin.Google Scholar

  • Porter, David T. 1981. Dickinson: The Modern Idiom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. 2000. The Sonnets. Booth Stephen (ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

  • Sparks, Eliza Kay. n.d. Chronological List of Criticism on Emily Dickinson’s ‘My Life had Stood, a Loaded Gun’. http://virtual.clemson.edu/caah/women/flc436/Dickinson/EDchrolist.htm (accessed 9 June 2011).

  • Spenser, Eliza Kay Edmund. 1958. The Works of Edmund Spenser. In Edwin Greenlaw (ed.), The Minor Poems. Vol. 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar

  • Stechow, Arnim von. 2008. Tenses in Compositional Semantics. In Wolfgang Klein (ed.)., The Expression of Time in Language, 129–166. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. Vol. I. [1828]. New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970.

  • Weisbuch, Robert. 1975. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Wyatt, Thomas. 1981. The Complete Poems. R. A. Rebholz (ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2015-10-24

Published in Print: 2015-09-01


Citation Information: Journal of Literary Semantics, Volume 44, Issue 2, Pages 115–140, ISSN (Online) 1613-3838, ISSN (Print) 0341-7638, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2015-0010.

Export Citation

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

[1]
Rocío Montoro
Language and Literature, 2016, Volume 25, Number 4, Page 376

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in