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Steepletop Library: The Books of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Introduction

This exhibit features a few books in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s library at Steepletop by several writers canonically considered high modernists. In the 1993 essay “Millay and Modernism,” Gilbert Allen, drawing on a distinction made by David Perkins, identifies Millay as a “Popular Modernist,” one who (like Robert Frost, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Amy Lowell, whose books are also to be found in Millay’s library) conveyed the same insurgent attitude as more stylistically experimental “High Modernists” (like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, books by whom are featured here). Unlike the High Modernists, Popular Modernists like Millay deliberately wrote to and for a public in language all could understand. Most (but not all) of the books featured here are earlier works of the high modernists, works not yet making use of avant-garde forms (Allen 266).

Please note that embedded texts and images included here are NOT scans made from the copies of these books in Millay’s library at Steepletop; rather, they are taken from existing online sources such as the HathiTrust Digital Library and the Internet Archive and are provided merely for illustration. Note too that it is almost never certain (though almost always likely) that any particular book at Steepletop was owned by (let alone read by) Edna St. Vincent Millay: some of the books there belonged to her husband, Eugen Boissevain; to Boissevain’s first wife, the feminist Inez Milholland; or to Norma Millay, sister of the poet, who inherited Steepletop on ESVM’s death and lived there for decades afterward.

Click on the sections at right to read extended commentary about the books. When complete, the exhibit will feature commentary on eight books: James Joyce's Ulysses, Marianne Moore's Poems, H.D.'s Hymen, Djuna Barnes's Ladies' Almanack, Gertrude Stein's Three Lives, Ezra Pound's translation of Guido Cavalcanti's Sonnets and Ballate, T. S. Eliot's Ezra Pound, His Metric and Poetry, and James Joyce's Chamber Music.

References

Allen, Gilbert. “Millay and Modernism.” Critical Essays on American Literature. Ed. William B. Thesing. New York: G. K. Hall, 1993. Print. 266–72.