Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Judith Lewin

Second Advisor

Bernhard Kuhn




feminism, poetry, womens studies, transcendentalism


This thesis examines the relationship between nineteenth-century American feminism, transcendentalism, and poetry through an analysis of Margaret Fuller’s essay Woman in the Nineteenth Century in tandem with Emily Dickinson’s collected poems. Fuller presents an original type of feminist optimism influenced by the precepts of the American transcendentalist movement. Her essay employs the transcendental belief in the possibility for human semi-divinity in order to proclaim that women, rather than men, possess unique potential for transcendence. As a result, Fuller theorizes that with women’s social, sexual, and intellectual liberation, a certain ideal woman will be able to transcend not only women’s limited position in a patriarchal society, but also the confines of human experience. I investigate the details of Fuller’s ideal woman and employ her theories as a lens through which to read Dickinson’s poems, with the goal of determining if Dickinson’s poetic genius embodies this female ideal. By simultaneously analyzing the two women’s works, I reveal the ways in which Dickinson’s poems enhance, complicate, and deviate from Fuller’s concepts, as well as the literary exchange that arises between the two writers. Due to the essay and poems’ capacity to reciprocally nuance each other, I argue that Dickinson’s poetic achievement, when read concurrently with Fuller, does fulfill Fuller’s concept of the feminine transcendental ideal.