January 8-14: The “Azarian School”

ON CHOOSING THE POEMS

The poems for this week illustrate aspects of the “Azarian School,” explored in the post for this week. 

In his essay, “’When one’s soul’s at a white heat’: Dickinson and the ‘Azarian School’.” David Cody demonstrates that many of Dickinson’s poems engage intertextually with the works of Harriet Prescott Spofford and Rose Terry Cooke. These two New England writers were published in The Atlantic Monthly, which Dickinson frequently read, and were considered part of this informal “school,” which was characterized by lush, rapturous, exuberant and often spiritually intense writing.

Azarianism was all the rage for a period in the 1850-60’s until critics decided it went too far and realism took over. Even its main practitioners, Spofford and Cooke, moderated their style. Because Dickinson did not publish her poetry, she was not subject to the same kinds of inhibiting criticism.

As it is impossible to determine the exact composition date for a given poem, we do not mean to imply that these poems were written during January 8-14, 1862, but that they can be speculatively grouped together because they are intertextually connected to the style and themes of the Azarian School, though distilled through Dickinson’s characteristic compression.


After Great Pain, a formal feeling comes –  (F372, J341)

At least – to pray – is left – is left –  (F377, J344)

Dare you see a Soul at the “White Heat”? (F401, J365)

’Twas like a Maelstrom, with a notch (F425, J414)

Because I could not stop for Death – (F479, J712)

The Soul’s Superior instants (F630, J306)

I started Early – Took my Dog – (F656, J520)

Read The Week’s Blog and Reflection (And Leave us your Comments!) for January 8-14, 1862