Date of Thesis



In this project, I apply components of fractal geometry to the work of Emily Dickinson and Cole Swensen with an aim to investigate and to interrogate spaces and forms of ghost. Using the elements of self-similarity across scale, recursion/iterative removal, and non-integer dimension (which I call inter-dimensionality in service of its literary application) I examine the whitespace of Cole Swensen's work in conjunction with the plus signs and alternate endings of Dickinson's work. To orient the various interworking components of this project - Dickinson, Swensen, fractal geometry, inter-dimensionality, tropes of garden, tropes of ghost - I have divided the body of this thesis into two chapters. In the first chapter, "Gardens," I use a tripartite model of garden, ghost, and fractal to situate my analysis of Swensen's and Dickinson's work, which includes a poem from Swensen's collection Ours, a poem from Dickinson's eighteenth fascicle, and a page from Dickinson's herbarium. In my second chapter, "Graves," I organize my reading of Dickinson's and Swensen's work chiefly around the relationship between fractals' perimeter and area as it aids in the creation of a sense of inter-dimensionality. In this chapter I analyze the multiple endings of Dickinson' poem "One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted" and two poems from Swensen's collection Gravesend. In addition to offering a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing the work of Dickinson and the work of Swensen, one that attempts to use "fractal poetics" and their components in the proper context of their mathematical origins and one that attempts to give a specific characterization of the concept of liminality as it is applied to literature, it is my hope that this project provides a model in which we might pair contemporary poets with poets of the past. I feel that such a model might increase the frequency with which literary scholars examine contemporary poets, and, in their examinations, do so in a manner that also might, in turn, increase the frequency with which multidisciplinary scholarship is generated.


poetics, fractals, Emily Dickinson, cole swensen, contemporary poetry, gardens in literature, ghosts in literature

Access Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Arts



First Advisor

G. C. Waldrep III