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"I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed" Poem Project

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Joshua Mars

on 4 April 2013

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Transcript of "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed" Poem Project

Tara Mars and Sara Kintz
2nd Period "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed" Background-
Edna St. Vincent Millay Literary Techniques Humorist and Satirist
Wrote about female sexuality and feminism
Won Pulitzer Prize for “The Harp Weaver”
One of the most skillful of sonnet writers in 20th century
Known for combining modernist attitudes with traditional forms
Had progressive political stances
During her marriage of 26 years, was “sexually open” 1892-1950 Connections Irony The title, “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed,” is ironic because one would assume a woman would be distressed over love and heartbreak but instead she isn’t in love and only wants casual hook-ups which serves to show her point of view on relationships compared to societies view. Point of View Words such as “I,” “me,” and “my,” show that the sonnet is in 1st person point of view. The 1st person point of view allows the reader to understand the narrators thoughts and her view on love which emphasizes the internal conflict the narrator is going through. Imagery The phrase, “To bear your body’s weight upon my breast,” gives life to the narrators thoughts and allows the reader to experience her feelings and conflict of wanting sex but not wanting a committed relationship. The phrase “stout blood against my staggering brain” shows the stubbornness of the narrator, who desires to go against the norms of society, which is conveyed by the phrase “stout blood,” meaning thick blood or stubborn blood. However, by the use of the word “staggering,” the author emphasizes how confused the narrator really is about what to do and how there is no clear or easy decision about what to do. Metaphor Diction Theme AP Questions In line 6, the word “fume” is used to describe

A. Life
B. The narrator’s lover
C. Love
D. Society
E. Sex The poem is an example of which of the following verse forms

A. Free Verse
B. Ballad Meter
C. Sonnet
D. Heroic Couplet
E. Blank Verse Where is the most significant shift in the poem?

A) Lines 1-2
B) Lines 5-6
C) Lines 9-10
D) Lines 11-12
E) Lines 13-14 Which of the following words best represents the tone of the passage?

A. “urged”
B. “bear”
C. “possessed”
D. “scorn”
E. “distressed” Works Cited http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/edna-st-vincent-millay
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://uploads1.wikipaintings.org/images/pablo-picasso/two-women-running-on-the-beach-the-race-1922.jpg The best decisions are not always the ones that make us happy. Two Women Running on the Beach Pablo Picasso 1922 Neoclassicism Style Neoclassicist and Surrealist Period Completed in Picasso was driven in his art by the need to unload himself of psychological concerns. The narrator also seems to be unloading her distresses throughout the poem. Both the painting and the poem were made in the 20s, a time of carelessness and free will, which contributed to the carefree content of the poem and the wildness of the painting. Rather than reflecting the trends of the time, Picasso's art was governed heavily by his own personal situation and mood. This is just like the narrator’s decision, which seems like it will be heavily influenced by emotions. Between 1917 to the mid 1930's (the time this painting was made) Picasso's love life seemed to have the biggest effect on his artistic production. The narrator’s love life seems to be the subject of the entire poem as well (or rather the lack of a love life). Picasso was an innovator and much of what characterized his work was his own, entirely original, style. His individuality parallels the narrator’s individuality in being different from society. Background & Connections At first glance, the painting of the two women seems very carefree, which parallels the poem, because the narrator wants to do whatever she feels like, but feels restricted by society. Therefore, the fact that the two women are out “in the middle of nowhere” shows how free they really are because they do not have any societal constraints bearing down on them (meaning if there was a busy scene in the background, one could infer that they were being burdened by the fast-paced life of civilization). This is what the narrator longs for. Explanation The one that has the leg in front of the other is showing a kind of dominant stance in that she’s the one that wants to be in the lead and in charge, while the other woman just looks like she’s there for the ride. This is similar to the way the narrator behaves. She is the one in charge because the decision to be together with her friend is riding on her, and her friend is depending on the decision to see where their relationship will go next. Therefore, the author has the “reins” and can manipulate her friend into doing anything she desires, just as in the painting the woman in front can take the two of them anywhere. Painting Connections The title “Two Women Running on The Beach,” symbolizes freedom and carelessness, which is similar to the poem in that the narrator just wants to have a carefree relationship with her friend. The background is oversimplified without any details and the sea and the sky seem to merge into each other. The simplicity of the painting helps to parallel how uncomplicated the narrator wants the relationship to be. The exposure of the two women is caused by carelessness and does not evoke any sense of appreciation for the body, just as the narrator is objectifying herself by being fine with having sex without a relationship. The two women are identified as “maeneds in ecstasy” (mythological maenads symbolized unadulterated human passions). This neoclassical painting depicts unleashed wildness. The poem supports this idea of wildness by the use of the words “staggering” and “frenzy.” The narrator would also be seen as wild in the sense that she does not want to settle down with someone, but rather just wants to have sex with them, the epitome of wildness. The women in this painting are not the classical figures that emanate calm and serenity. Instead, this painting depicts “unleashed frenzy and passion.” The poem is similar to this in that the narrator is also not the typical woman during that time because she does not want to settle down with a partner. The painting supports the narrator’s freedom of choice in that the painting emanates a very carefree spirit, just as the narrator is for possibly being a Lesbian. Picasso also seems to be mocking the traditional composed, stiff and formal demeanor of the subjects of classical paintings, just like Millay is mocking society by writing a poem in which the subject does not concede to societal norms. I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain, I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again. Paraphrase The narrator, born a woman, feels internal conflict because she feels the need to try and have feelings for her close woman friend yet can’t feel anything more than sex. In the end, she can’t convince herself to love her and their sexual encounter shall go unspoken about between the two of them because she just considers it a small detail in her life. Because Millay was bisexual, the internal conflict in the poem is about mixed feelings between what she wants and what society thinks is correct. The poem was written during the roaring twenties, when people were becoming more open about their sexuality. Her “sexually open” marriage allowed for casual sex which is shown in “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed,” through words such as “frenzy,” “zest,” and “possessed.” Being alive during the 1920s, Millay encompasses the carefree attitude that was alive during that period in her poem, expressing her feelings of possibly liking a woman which would have been more accepted during that time. The phrase “season my scorn with pity” helps the reader to understand that although the narrator is angry at herself because she cannot love the other person and is also angry at the person for expecting love from her, she feels sympathy for the other person. The word “possessed” helps convey to the reader the internal conflict the narrator is experiencing- she does not want to hurt the feelings of her friend because she’s having sex with them, but at the same time, she cannot love them. This painting, done by Picasso during his neoclassical period in 1922, depicts two large half naked women running wildly along the shore. This attitude is similar to the one the narrator emanates, one of frivolity and little respect for the concept of a real relationship. Like other paintings from Picasso’s neoclassical period, this painting is not perfectly classical and in many ways Picasso is mocking the “return to order” movement through it. The narrator is also leery of societal norms and does not care for its expectations. The brush work of this painting being crude, rough and untraditional is similar to the poem in that the narrator is crude and untraditional by the fact that she just wants to have sex without an actual relationship. The women in the painting appear free and seem utterly joyous with their hair flowing back and their hands held high, as in triumph. This lighthearted attitude is one that the narrator seeks in a relationship. By: Edna St. Vincent Millay
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