Rival Italies: Emily Dickinson, John Ruskin and Henry James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an 1862 letter, Dickinson told the eminent American essayist Thomas Wentworth Higginson that “For Prose” she read “Mr. Ruskin.” This essay sheds light on one aspect of Dickinson's response to Ruskin's prose by considering the very different ways in which Ruskin, a consummate traveler, and Dickinson, a virtual tourist, viewed Italy. Her Italy is more like Henry James's, as it is described in his travel essays “Italy Revisited” (1878) and “Venice” (1882); both Americans oppose Ruskin's high-minded, authoritarian conception of Italy and instead view it as a place of spontaneity, joy, and irresponsibility. Dickinson's ideas about Italy also derive from the responses of her female contemporaries to this country, especially Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856); such texts clarify the connections Dickinson makes, particularly in her volcano poems, between this land and female creativity and sexual freedom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-125
Number of pages13
JournalProse Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Rival Italies: Emily Dickinson, John Ruskin and Henry James'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this