The Inside Story

Some time in the 1940’s, during a traumatic episode that apparently dealt with an experience of unrequited love, Hans discovered the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and decided to translate her poems into German. During this translation work, he made his sensational discovery, which occupied him for the rest of his life. He discovered that Dickinson had created a double language, at one level writing the masterpieces of poetry, and on the other describing, in lush detail, her erotic experiences.

Although he tried to publish his findings with Harvard University Press, who by the 1960’s held the copyright on Dickinson’s poems, negotiations fell through, and his work remained unpublished. At the time of his death on June 22, 1991, Hans had written eight bound volumes, containing interpretations of 1173 poems (171 of them in two versions) and a glossary of 258 symbols.

Hans’s manuscripts present a great challenge. Several thousand pages of commentary exist in the Dickinson materials alone, spaced across a span of forty years, during which time he continually checked and cross-checked his findings, changing his theory whenever it did not explain newly discovered facts.


Since he was never able to bring his manuscripts into a form suitable for publication, it is impossible to know how he might have reconciled his different findings, what he might have rejected. We do know that certain things that puzzled him in the story of Dickinson’s heterosexual love life as he first construed it were made clear to him when he read Rebecca Patterson’s thesis about Kate Scott Anthon and Dickinson’s lesbianism. Today, he doubtless would find the current scholarship on the relation between Emily and her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, equally illuminating. As it stands, his Dickinson work falls into two overlapping categories: the literary analysis of Dickinson’s secret symbolic language and the biographical story of her sexual experiences.

On this website you will find Hans’s theory, methodology, and findings, written mostly in his own words.