Thomas Hardy once said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The most famous poet of the Jazz Age, Millay captivated the nation: She smoked in public, took many lovers (men and women, single and married), flouted convention sensationally, and became the embodiment of the New Woman. Thirty years after her landmark biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, Nancy Milford returns with an iconic portrait of this passionate, fearless woman who obsessed America even as she tormented herself. Chosen by USA Today as one of the top ten books of the year, Savage Beauty is a triumph in the art of biography. Millay was an American original--one of those rare characters, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, whose lives were even more dramatic than their art.
In this newest addition to Sandra M. Gilber's Ad Feminam: Women and Literature series, Diane P. Freedman brings together twelve essays by critics of poetry and women's writing for a critical reappraisal of the prolific work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Though finding its occasion in the life of Millay--the centennial of the writer's birth--this volume refocuses attention on Millay's art by asking questions central to our present concerns: What in the varied body of Millay's work speaks to us most forcefully today? Which critical perspectives most illuminate her texts? How might those approaches be challenged, extended, or reoriented? In seeking the answers to such questions, the volume's contributors illuminate the means by which Millay's early success has been slighted and misunderstood and examine issues of personality, personae, critical stature, and formal experimentation in Millay's various genres: lyric poetry, the sonnet, verse drama, fiction, and the personal letter. In 1920, following the publication of A Few Figs from Thistles, Millay was the "It girl" of American poetry. But by the late 1930s, her popularity waned as her critical reputation declined under the reign of high modernism and its critics. In fact, Millay, like others of her generation, had rejected modernist elitism in favor of public engagement, using her powerful public voice to plead for an end to the Sacco-Vanzetti trials as well as for U.S. entry into World War II. Condemned for both her politicizing and her political poetry, she was the first to admit that she and her poetry suffered in the service of public causes. Grouped into four parts, these essays focus on Millay's relation to modernism, her revisionary perspectives on love, her treatment of time and of the female body, and her use of masquerade and impersonation in life and in art.
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