Teacher's Guide for Cobblestone: Emily Dickinson
AN AMERICAN POET (page 2)
1. What has made Dickinson one of the foremost modern American poets?
GROWING UP IN AMHERST (page 4)
2. How do we know that Dickinson carefully reworked her poems?
1. To what work was Samuel Dickinson dedicated?
VISITING THE HOMESTEAD (page 6)
2. What did Samuel Dickinson sacrifice for Amherst College?
3. How did Emily Dickinson's father, Edward Dickinson, serve the community of Amherst?
4. What values were emphasized in the Dickinson home?
5. How did Emily Dickinson and her sister, Lavinia, develop different temperaments as they grew older?
1. How much land was part of the Dickinson Homestead?
LIFE AT MOUNT HOLYOKE (page 9)
2. Which of Dickinson's belongings can you see at the homestead?
3. How does the house serve two purposes today?
4. What are some of the other resources in Amherst that you could visit to learn more about Dickinson?
1. What was Mary Lyon's goal in establishing Mount Holyoke Female Seminary?
DICKINSON'S CORRESPONDENCE (page 12)
2. Why do you think the students were required to monitor their own behavior and report on themselves daily?
3. Why were the students required to do chores?
4. How long did Dickinson attend Mount Holyoke? What proportion of students graduated? Why do you think the number was so low?
1. Why did Dickinson write letters to people who lived close by?
"KINSMEN OF THE SHELF" (page 19)
2. Who was one of the first people to recognize her talent as a writer?
3. What kinds of relationships did Dickinson develop with people she wrote to regularly?
4. Why did Dickinson regret having sent a poem to Sam Bowles?
5. How did Thomas Wentworth Higginson think Dickinson should change her poetry? Why didn't he think she should try to get her work published?
6. Who was Helen Hunt Jackson? What did she encourage Dickinson to do?
7. What happened to Dickinson's poem when it was published in an anthology?
8. What legacy has Dickinson left behind besides her poetry?
1. Why was reading important to Dickinson? What did she learn from it?
GUESS WHAT (page 24)
2. How do the books she read give us a key to her poetry?
3. What contemporary poet did she reject? What poet influenced her work?
4. What American women writers did she admire?
5. For what did she use her Elementary Geology textbook?
6. How did Dickinson keep informed on current events?
7. To what English writer did she often refer in her poems?
8. How did hymns serve her as source material?
9. With what source material did the Bible provide her?
Read the two poems on these pages, one of which is by Emily Dickinson. Follow the directions to write your own riddle poem.
OPENING THE BOX (page 26)
1. Why was Lavinia Dickinson surprised when she was going through her sister's room after her death?
LITERARY CONTEMPORARIES OF THE 1800S (page 30)
2. What was the response of Thomas Wentworth Higginson when Lavinia Dickinson asked him to help in getting her sister's poetry published?
3. Why did Mabel Loomis Todd say that no printer would ever look at the poems in the form in which Lavinia Dickinson found them?
4. What did Todd agree to do? Why was it tedious? What feeling toward the poems developed in Todd as she continued to read and copy them?
5. How did Higginson react when he saw the poems?
6. What was the public reaction when the first volume of poems was published?
7. What changes did Todd and Higginson make to the poems?
8. What was Thomas Johnson's reaction to the original poems? What did he decide to do with them?
9. What contribution did Ralph W. Franklin make to our understanding and appreciation of Dickinson's work?
1. What was America developing in the early 1800s?
EMILY DICKINSON AT THE COLONIAL INN (page 38)
2. What was Nathaniel Hawthorne the first American writer to do?
3. Who was America's master of the horror story? When was he born?
4. In what way was Walt Whitman like Dickinson?
5. How was Louisa May Alcott's reason for writing different from Dickinson's?
6. What kinds of stories did Herman Melville write?
7. How did Henry David Thoreau come in contact with Louisa May Alcott?
8. What famous book did Harriet Beecher Stowe write? What was its theme?
9. What kind of career did Mark Twain pursue in 1861?
10. What did Louisa May Alcott do in the Civil War?
11. When was Little Women published? Who wrote it?
12. When was Dickinson's book Poems by Emily Dickinson published?
1. When did Belinda West begin researching Dickinson? How has she combined her interest in Dickinson with her training in drama?
2. Where does she make her presentations?
3. What other actress encouraged her in her presentation of Dickinson?
4. What did she have to do before she could use some of Dickinson's written work?
5. Why is Dickinson's work still protected?
6. What event took place in October 1992 for people interested in Dickinson?
7. How is her "Emily" very different from the way Dickinson was in real life?
8. What does she feel she is doing in her presentations?
1. Get a book of Dickinson's poetry from the library. Read several of her poems. Choose a topic similar to one she used (for example, nature) and write your own poem. Develop your own style; don't try to copy hers.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
2. Get a book of Dickinson's letters from the library. Read several letters and try to find one in which she describes an ordinary day. Write a letter to one of your friends whom you see often and describe your day.
3. Check out Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Using only this book as a source, write a report on the lives of women in the 1800s.
4. Get the audiocassette Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson read by Julie Harris. Make a list of the poems you enjoy most. Discuss how reading them is different from hearing them read. Which do you prefer? Why?
5. Dickinson retreated from life. She lived in a time and with a family that allowed her to do this. Discuss whether you think it is easier or more difficult to withdraw from the world today.
Be sure to check "From the Archives" on page 44 for related title suggestions. You also may want to check the following issue:
The Transcendentalists and Their Message (June 1987).