After Great Pain

by John Cody. Harvard University Press, $14.95. The book is subtitled The Inner Life of Emily Dickinson, first because her outer life was minimal and second (or could it be the other way around?) because Dr. Cody is a practicing psychiatrist. After explaining that posthumous analysis is unreliable because essential information may be buried, Dr. Cody proceeds to construct, out of letters and poems, an impressively consistent, correctly Freudian explanation of Emily’s odd behavior, incidentally demonstrating that Higginson was using chivalrous understatement when he described her as “partially cracked.” The book is an interesting enterprise on its own terms but dubiously helpful to poetry readers because Dr. Cody’s discovery of unconscious signs of penis envy in an undecipherable poem does nothing to elucidate the meaning that the poet consciously meant to convey.