A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie

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Kent State University Press, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 264 pages
Elinor Wylie's body of work - four novels and four volumes of poetry produced between 1921 and 1928 - has often been overshadowed by her controversial personal life. In A Private Madness Evelyn Hively explores the points at which her life and her art intersect and demonstrates how Wylie used language and literary form to transform the chaos of her experiences. This purpose was successfully met, as A Private Madness presents Wylie and her work within the culture of the twenties. Described by contemporaries as an icon of the age, Wylie was illustrative of the tone and mores of the notorious decade in which her poems, novels, and Vanity Fair articles were written. Her friendships with such notables as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and William Rose Benet and the events she endured - her father suffered breakdowns and a brother, a sister, and her first husband fell victim to suicide - colored her life and often mirrored the temper of the twenties. Her independence, unconventional behavior, narcissism, interest in the occult, the frantic pace of her life, and her problem with alcohol are evident in her novels and her poems. Her work embraces the escapism of the era in which
 

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Contents

Preface
13
A power remote and exquisite 3
15
Bitter springs of truth 10
15
The egregious egoist
18
Elinor Hichborn December 19o6August 1916
27
Here is my lover here is my friend
43
Words opalescent cool and pearly
52
An iridescent music to be my own
59
A subtle spirit has my path attended
147
Our mutable tongue is like the sea
158
Call her not wicked
169
In masks outrageous and austere
177
Preoccupied by a Platonic mind
185
A structure elegant and airy
194
The love that speech can never render plain
199
The pure integral form
213

Take now the burning question of morality
113
The lady stuffed with pistachio nuts
119
This strict ascetic habit of control
126
Here is no peace
131
Since we can neither run nor hide
135
In coldest crucibles of pain
141
This veil concealing sorrows face
219
Never ask the end
223
Notes
228
Bibliography
245
Index
257
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