Electronic Theses and Dissertations


My Higher Self: Elizabeth Bishop and the Endurance of Emerson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in English

First Advisor

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Second Advisor

Gary Short

Third Advisor

Cristin Ellis


While there exists some scholarship affirming the aesthetic and intellectual connections between transcendentalism and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, there is to date no substantial study of what role Ralph Waldo Emerson singularly played in the inheritance of that tradition. This essay seeks to validate Emerson as Bishop's literary parentage, an influence that, though not immediately identifiable, greatly shaped her creative process. In so doing, it addresses the critical mistakes which have prevented a thorough discussion of Emerson's relevance and, moreover, negatively dominated the imagination of Bishop scholarship. As an exploration of the writers' shared iconography, their mutual metaphors, the following traces three common subjects: nature, language, and vision.

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