A host of prognoses have been proffered by experts, historians and admirers over the years to explain Emily Dickinson’s mysterious and absolute withdrawal from society — including agoraphobia, lupus, epilepsy, and a possible eye ailment says Dr. Isabel C. Legarda. But, relying on her years of experience as a physician, Legarde suggests that something besides grief afflicted the great poet, and that something, she identifies, was sexual trauma.
“Poetry was her way to ‘Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant,’ ” says Legarda.
Legarda says she discovered dozens of trauma poems within Dickison’s body of work “that appear to encode experiences of being violated,” poems that forced her to consider that the poet might have experienced sexual assault “and been silenced not only in her own time but also by generations of scholars afterward.”
However, Legarda went so far as to Google “Emily Dickinson and trauma / sexual assault / PTSD,” and was heartened to find “scholarly works by other doctors with similar suspicions and by authors who saw what many readers seem unwilling to see.”