Edna St Vincent Millay and the Dissident Petrarchan Subject

  • Natasha Distiller


Edna St Vincent Millay was, at the height of her popularity, America’s most celebrated woman poet. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry, which she did in 1923. In 1925, Genevieve Taggard (1993: 137) wrote of Millay that she ‘is really the first woman poet to take herself seriously as an artist’. Locating Millay in a trajectory that begins with Sappho, Taggard finds ‘the meagre list in our own tongue [to comprise] Emily Brontë, Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett — none of them very adequate to our desire. And then — suddenly, quite dazzlingly, in America,… Edna St. Vincent Millay’ (ibid.). She was also well-known for her independence and unconventionality; this has translated into a reputation for feminist activism. As John Timberman Newcomb (1995: 261) puts it, ‘Millay… was seen by many as a prototype of the “modern woman,” especially in her assertion of the right to and need for female self-determination of body, mind, pocketbook, and voice’.


Female Speaker Human Desire Amorous Line Sexist Ideology Poetic Form 
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© Natasha Distiller 2008

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  • Natasha Distiller

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