Emily Dickinson is another one of the authors that literary critics with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are driven up a freaking wall by because they are unable to put her definitivly into a literary period. She is one of the poets that they just lable as being "between," or simply call a dangerous anarchist because she does not fit into their pretty little groups. The fancy critics like to say that she belongs somewhere in between the Realist and Modernist stlyes, but this is utterly bunk and should really be ignored.
The Realist writers were seeking to recreate the world exactly as it was in their books and poetry (Werlock "Realism"). This means that their works were often depressing and never exactly happy because in life, happiness is the most easily forgotten feeling. In the humble opinion of one certain commentator on literature, they made their stories unrealistic by including so few of the happy things that happen all of the time in a person's life, but that is a rant for another night. Back to the main point, Emily Dickinson does not really fit well into this genre. As much thought as she gave to death, she did not think of it as depressing like the Realists did. She approached it as one does an interesting subject for consideration, not as some horrible fact of life that literature seems incomplete without. With other topics that are generally sad she takes the same approach, sometimes being optomistic. Instead of writing about strife, she writes poetry about hope, and such optimism can be rather hard to find in the Realists' works.
With the Modernists Emily Dickinson fit even worse. Modernists were consumed by the notion that society was some great and terrible beast without reason, and that the best a person could do was try to adjust to it (Werlock "Modernism"). In the eyes of a modernist author, a real, thoughtful person does not really have a place in the mindless society created after the first world war. Dickinson could not agree less, even on a bad hair day in one hundred degree heat around three hours before the ice cream man normally comes. She firmly believed people had a place and a purpose, and wrote her entire body of poetry trying to figure out just what they were and how they fit together (Aiken). She believed that certain events and feelings really had meaning, unlike the Modernists who felt like helpless children drowning alone in some stormy sea.
Like Whitman, Dickinson did not really belong even remotely to either the Realist period or the Modernist period, but instead fit somewhere along side the Transcendentalists. She had her little differences with Transcendentalism, but the great majority of her philosophy agrees with theirs. She believed that life was meaningful and beautiful, and while she might have been a little cryptic at times, at least she had enough faith in people to believe they would be able to decipher it, which is more that the Realists and Modernists could say for themselves.
Aiken, Conrad. "Emily Dickinson." In A Reviewer's ABC. New York: Meridian Books, 1935. Quoted as "Emily Dickinson" in Harold Bloom, ed. Emily Dickinson, Bloom's Major Poets. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 12 Mar. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= BMPED04&SingleRecord=True.
Werlock, Abby H. P. "modernism." The Facts On File Companion to the
American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009.
Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.
Werlock, Abby H. P. "realism." The Facts On File Companion to the American
Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's
Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.