Emily Dickinson's metrical structures were as fully influenced by the ballad as by the hymn, and other elements of her style may also have been shaped by the huge popularity of ballads in the early nineteenth century in the United States. Understanding that the ballad is as important a model as hymns for Dickinson's short-lined verse undercuts interpretation of her chosen forms as either inherently rebellious against orthodoxies or devoutly meditative. Instead, Dickinson participated actively in secular as well as religious nineteenth-century popular verse culture. Attention to the ballad form and to ways ballads were read in the early nineteenth century illuminates both what is most extraordinary in Dickinson's verse and ways that it participates in the widespread development of popular forms. Her greatness emerges from her pleasure in, and experimentation with, her era's most popular and common forms as much as from the distinctiveness of her ear and imagination.
Cristanne Miller; Dickinson and the Ballad. Genre 1 March 2012; 45 (1): 29–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1507029
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