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St. Vincent Millay, Edna (1892–1950) By Black, Cheryl

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM1135-1
Published: 01/10/2016
Retrieved: 25 August 2019, from
https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/st-vincent-millay-edna-1892-1950

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Abstract

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a poet, playwright and free-spirited bohéme who epitomized the aesthetically and sexually adventurous ‘new woman’ of the early twentieth century. Born in Rockland, Maine, and raised by an unconventional mother who encouraged her intellectual and artistic pursuits, Millay garnered national attention at the age of nineteen with her lyric poem Renascence (1912). Millay’s innovative poetry, for which she received a Pulitzer Prize in 1923, integrated conventional forms with unconventional content that celebrated sexual liberation and female autonomy.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a poet, playwright and free-spirited bohéme who epitomized the aesthetically and sexually adventurous ‘new woman’ of the early twentieth century. Born in Rockland, Maine, and raised by an unconventional mother who encouraged her intellectual and artistic pursuits, Millay garnered national attention at the age of nineteen with her lyric poem Renascence (1912). Millay’s innovative poetry, for which she received a Pulitzer Prize in 1923, integrated conventional forms with unconventional content that celebrated sexual liberation and female autonomy.

Her whimsical verse plays The Princess Marries the Page (c. 1915),  Two Slatterns and a King (c. 1915) and The Lamp and the Bell (1921) similarly evoke traditional genres to challenge conventional gender roles and sexual morality. After graduation from Vassar College in 1917, Millay moved to Greenwich Village, where she found an artistic home as an actress and playwright with the Provincetown Players. Her most notable dramatic success came with their 1919–1920 production of her antiwar fable Aria da Capo , a satirical and reflexive re-visioning of commedia dell’ arte ’sColumbina and Pierrot as Greenwich Village bohemians. Their witty harlequinade is interrupted by a tragical-pastoral interlude in which two greedily territorial shepherds kill each other. The harlequinade resumes, but with the bodies of the two shepherds remaining on stage. During the next two decades, Millay continued to write and perform her poetry, also completing a number of short stories (under the name Nancy Boyd), an opera libretto (1927), a translation of Charles Baudelaire’s (1821–1867) Flowers of Evil (1936), and the genre-defying poetic drama in blank verse Conversation at Midnight (1937).

Further Reading

  • Cheney, A. (1975) Millay in Greenwich Village, Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

  • Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, http://www.millay.org/.

  • Milford, N. (2001) Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, New York: Random House.

  • Millay, E. S. V. (1926) Three Plays, New York: Harper and Bros.

  • Millay, E. S. V. (1956) Collected Poems, ed. Millay, N., New York: Harper and Bros.

  • Thesing, W. B. (ed.) (1993) Critical Essays on Edna St. Vincent Millay, New York: G. K. Hall.

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01/10/2016

Article DOI

10.4324/9781135000356-REM1135-1

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Citing this article:

Black, Cheryl. "St. Vincent Millay, Edna (1892–1950)." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. : Taylor and Francis, 2016. Date Accessed 25 Aug. 2019 https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/st-vincent-millay-edna-1892-1950. doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REM1135-1

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