This study will examine the poem which begins "She rose to His Requirement - dropt," by Emily Dickinson (also known as poem #732). The study will analyze the formalist and the feminist views of the poem, comparing the two critical approaches, and then arguing that the feminist approach is more able to provide the reader a more full appreciation of the heart and soul of the work.
Dickinson's poem is particularly useful in this study because it offers itself up so willingly to both the formalist and feminist schools. While the formalist approach does help the reader understand the complexities and organization of the work, the feminist approach, again, offers greater insight into the mind of the woman who created the poem.
Cuddon writes that the formalist approach originated in Russia in 1917 and held that "art is primarily a matter of style and technique and that technique is not only the method but the object of art" (Cuddon 277). Formalism, however, evolved into a richer interpretation of poetry in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. The emphasis remained on form and a "close reading and textual analysis" of a poem, disregarding the poet's personality, as well as "sources, the history of ideas and political and social implications" (Cuddon 422). Again, Dickinson's poem is ideal for such analysis because she is a poet who pays meticulous attention to every piece of the poem, so that it appears as a well-oiled machine.
At the same time, she treats the formal aspects of poetry, such as rhyming, with a deftly unique hand. The first of the three stanzas rhymes the second and fourth lines--"Life" and "Wife." The second stanza yields a rhyme on the first and fourth lines--"Day" and "away." The third and final stanza offers an off-rhyme--"Weed" and "abide"--in the same lines, the second and fourth, which rhymed in the first stanza. The poem consists of twelve lines, three stanzas of four lines each.
The formalist approa...