Winter 2006 • Vol. XXVIII No. 1 Writing in Code: Literature and the Genome |

The Genomic Tropes of Dickinson’s “The Veins of Other Flowers”

The Veins of other Flowers The Scarlet Flowers are Till Nature leisure has for Terms As "Branch," and "Jugular." We pass, and she abides We conjugate Her Skill While She creates and federates Without a syllable. —Emily Dickinson, #811 (c. 1864) This poem by Emily Dickinson offers several layers of relevance to the issues inherent in the linking of human genetics and language. This linkage is more than metaphorical in that modem theories of language and communication are being actively applied to genomic study in order to better understand the ways genes communicate. Too often, however, writing about the genome falls prey to a most discordant and nonorganic mix of metaphorical images. The metaphors of much genome literature don't consistently build upon or inform one another; instead, the use of some sort of metaphorical language when describing the study of the genome has become de rigueur and unreflective. There is, I would complain, a lack of rigor in the application of

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