Emily Dickinson should stand as a major gothic author among her nineteenth-century American contemporaries, but two factors have previously prevented her inclusion in such company. Perhaps the most obvious is the problem of the genre: Dickinson writes gothic poetry, whereas gothic fiction defines the genre. In addition, her poetic personae have served over the decades to prompt critics to “protect” her; traditional critics concentrated on the sweet, romantic elements of her oeuvre. More recent readers, notably Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Jane Egerwein, and Cynthia Griffin Wolff, have begun studying Dickinson's gothic traits; Emily Dickinson's Gothic explores Dickinsonian gothicism with the systematic rigor it demands and deserves.
Emily Dickinson's Gothic also addresses sociohistorical concerns, from hallowed gothic conventions dating from Horace Walpole's eighteenth century to such modernist neogothic topics as rape, the void, and disjunctive language that appear in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wardrop recognizes the full extent to which the gothic pervades Dickinson's canon and the means by which the gothic determines her aesthetic. Such full consideration of women's gothicism allows the placement of Dickinson within a literary context, both in terms of American writers and in terms of women writers.