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Poetics of the Body: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elizabeth by C. Cucinella

By C. Cucinella

Poetics of the physique examines representations of the physique within the paintings of 4 vital twentieth-century poets: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elizabeth Bishop, Marilyn Chin, and Marilyn Hacker. Drawing on either earlier and current discussions in regards to the position of the physique on the subject of Western philosophy, gender, sexuality, hope, artistic creation, and narrative, this examine finds how the poetic our bodies within the poetry of those ladies negotiate the intersecting ideologies that try and keep an eye on the physique, its features, and its behaviors.  eventually, this dynamic ebook considers what it capacity to own a physique.

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Additional info for Poetics of the Body: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elizabeth Bishop, Marilyn Chin, and Marilyn Hacker

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Although the results might be the same, a candle burning at both ends disintegrates much more slowly than does a stick of dynamite, and the candle “gives a lovely light” rather than a blinding flash. In “Second Fig,” Millay extends the idea of loveliness and its connection to the ephemeral and impermanent: Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand; Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand! (127) As she does in “First Fig,” Millay ends this poem with an exclamation point that marks the body as exclamatory in contrast to the “unexclamatory” one that she described in her self-portrait.

In this sense, the poem presents the paradox of femininity: femininity itself is both alienating and an alienation. Whereas in her self-portrait, Millay claims nakedness itself as fashion, in this poem, she costumes the body in nakedness. In “The Plaid Dress,” nakedness does not reveal; rather, it covers: No more uncoloured than unmade, I fear, can be this garment that I may not doff; Confession does not strip it off, To send me homeward eased and bare; All though the formal, unoffending evening under the clean Bright hair, Lining the subtle gown .

This notion of undressing recurs in Millay’s poem “The Plaid Dress,” written much later, which I will address at length later in this chapter. In the closing lines of the self-portrait, Millay ironizes the notion of covering the body as she presents a body dressed in nakedness, and as the last two lines clearly state, she feels no shame in the body itself (and in this case, the body is Millay’s as she chooses to present it). In this sense then, this self-portrait does celebrate the body and its power of self-presentation.

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