The Worlds of Dickinson and James

Exploration through Classroom Creativity

Emily Dickinson
Photo used with permission from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
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As children, creativity is an aura around us; children are encouraged to play pretend, let their imaginations expand, and think as freely as possible. They live in creative, improvised worlds, making up their own guidelines and being rewarded for attempts, failed or successful, at forming art, through outlets ranging from scribbles on scraps of paper to lessons taught to a class full of imaginary students. This childhood freedom, however, is typically not encouraged in post-secondary education; when it is, the results are more rewarding than a participant or audience member could ever imagine.

As an English major I had always felt inspired by what I am studying: Morrison evoked an irresistible urge in me to write poetry, and More caused me to be intrigued by the English court system in the sixteenth century. Usually, I had been forced to allow the products of my inspiration to come alive only as pleasure reading, or stanzas etched in the margins of my notebook. I have been privileged to be a student in a few classes where this inspiration has blossomed into creative works, though. It is hard to look back at the quality of the work in these classes without being truly impressed by the projects that were presented by students, many of whom had little or no experience in art. The feeling of accomplishment by those students, comparable to the feeling experienced by a child who has proudly sketched a refrigerator-worthy family portrait, is something not seen everyday in traditional classrooms.

Myself and the other students in Dr. Wallace's Fall 2001 Emily Dickinson and Henry James course were touched by this incredible feeling. Throughout the semester we were encouraged to think and speak freely, just as the authors we were studying did. Our pregnant thoughts became more enlivened with every reading and class discussion. We were given the option of doing creative pieces for our final projects, and many students decided to play around with the inspiration provided by the class; it is clear that even those students who chose to do traditional papers for their projects still effectively used this inspiration -- their outlet was just to discover more about the authors, fulfilling their own desires to delve deeper into the writers' worlds.

On the first day of class presentations I knew that I was a part of something wonderful and magnanimous. I had never before seen such a broad assortment of creative projects, all of which were of an unheard of quality for students who mostly had little background in art. I felt dazed when the presentations were over. It was nearly impossible for me to comprehend how amazingly talented one small, diverse group of students could be. I could not resist working under the direction of Dr. Wallace to make the projects, both creative and traditional, available to a larger audience. This website is dedicated to showcasing the works that were produced in this class.

--Melissa Rae Gers, Webmaster

» Inspired by Words: Visual Art

» Digging Deeper: Research Essays

» Melodic Interpretation: Musical Compositions

» Between the Lines: Creative Writing

» Essential Emily: An Anthology

» Last Words: Finals Exams

» A Word from the Teacher

» Visit The Emily Dickinson International Society Web Site

» View a Portrait of Henry James

» About this Site; Contact Information

This site was last updated on January 9, 2003

2002   Melissa Rae Gers and Individual Contributors