An Unaccustomed Wine: Poems of Emily Dickinson

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Toronto Pursuits and COVID-19: We expect to formally open registration and collect deposits early in 2022, once we get more information from the University of Toronto. See the main Toronto Pursuits page for more details.

We do have a variety of online seminars running now, with new groups starting regularly. Thank you for your patience!




Long-time partners in life and learning Denise Ahlquist and JJ Patton are excited to explore the cornucopia of riches that Emily Dickinson’s poems comprise. Denise’s background in women’s studies and American literature, plus years of leading Shared Inquiry discussions with the Great Books Foundation, are complemented perfectly by JJ’s unique perspective and deep understanding of the art of poetry.


Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them, edited by Cristanne Miller
(Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2016)
ISBN-13: 978-0674737969

Participants are required to obtain the specified edition to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion. Details will be provided at registration.

Emily Dickinson’s poetry may be the ultimate tribute to the beauty of language, full of stunning imagery and metaphors that linger in our minds—yet its exquisite crystalline distillations taunt readers with riddles and hint at hidden meanings in the nature of life. The essential questions she raises—of Death, Time, Truth—combined with the unflinching integrity of her vision and the uniqueness of her poetic voice are unforgettable, yielding even richer insights and deeper understanding when explored through Shared Inquiry discussion.

This seminar will focus on an exciting new edition that collects Emily Dickinson’s complete work, for the first time arranged in the order she personally copied the poems—“as she preserved them.” This fresh approach provides enjoyably readable access to the full complexity of Dickinson’s genius, while the interesting inclusion of the alternative words and revisions she considered, plus brief notes on her quotations, allusions, and the contexts of her words, shed light on how she developed her beautiful precision. Exploring Dickinson as reader, thinker—and most emphatically as working poet—helps us better see her Truth along the distinctive Slant she employs.

Although we will be concentrating on the poetry, the myths of her personal life inspire ongoing curiosity and regular revisions of the contexts within which readers situate her work. The seminar will provide some framing information based on new scholarship on both the manuscripts and her biography, plus briefly positioning her work within the historical and intellectual time period.

Discover and drink the unaccustomed wine—the genius of Emily Dickinson.


“Many a phrase has the English language — I have heard but one — Low as the laughter of the Cricket, Loud, as the Thunder’s Tongue”

— Emily Dickinson, Fascicle .12, Sheet 7


The cost of Toronto Pursuits registration will be announced shortly. Registration includes one seminar Monday to Friday, morning coffee and newspapers, five buffet lunches, afternoon speakers, a five-day opera lecture series, film screenings, guided walks, two cocktail receptions, and a range of other cultural and social activities. All costs are subject to the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

See Registration and Cancellation Policy at


ONE per registrant

  • Participants who have attended Toronto Pursuits at least five times receive a C$215 discount.
  • Register with a friend, and if one or both are first-time participants, each receives a C$215 discount.


You are responsible for booking your own accommodation. Click here for more information.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival Weekend

We expect to have more information about the Stratford Festival Weekend in early 2022.


Additional information


Concert ticket, Not eligible for discount, Five times, With friend, Gift registration