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TitleSylvia Plath: A Literary Life, Second Edition (Literary Lives)
LanguageEnglish
File Size689.9 KB
Total Pages194
Table of Contents
                            Cover
Contents
Chronology of Plath’s Literary Life
Preface
Part One
	1 The Writing Life
	2 Creating Lives
	3 Creating the Persona of the Self
	4 Recalling the Bell Jar
	5 Lifting the Bell Jar
	6 Plath’s Hospital Writing
	7 Defining Health
Part Two
	8 The Journey Toward Ariel
	9 Plath’s Poems about Women
	10 Plath’s Triumphant Woman Poems
	11 Getting Rid of Daddy
	12 Sylvia Plath, The Poet and her Writing Life
	13 The Usurpation of Sylvia Plath’s Narrative: Hughes’s Birthday Letters
Notes
Select Bibliography
Index
	A
	B
	C
	D
	E
	F
	G
	H
	I
	J
	K
	L
	M
	N
	O
	P
	R
	S
	T
	V
	W
	Y
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Sylvia Plath

A Literary Life
Second Edition

Linda Wagner-Martin

Page 2

Literary Lives
General Editor: Richard Dutton, Professor of English, Lancaster University

This series offers stimulating accounts of the literary careers of the most admired and
influential English-language authors. Volumes follow the outline of the writers’
working lives, not in the spirit of traditional biography, but aiming to trace the
professional, publishing and social contexts which shaped their writing.

Published titles include:

Clinton Machann

MATTHEW ARNOLD

Jan Fergus
JANE AUSTEN

Tom Winnifrith and Edward Chitham

CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË

Sarah Wood

ROBERT BROWNING

Janice Farrar Thaddeus
FRANCES BURNEY

Caroline Franklin

BYRON

Nancy A. Walker

KATE CHOPIN

Roger Sales
JOHN CLARE

Cedric Watts

JOSEPH CONRAD

Grahame Smith

CHARLES DICKENS

George Parfitt
JOHN DONNE

Paul Hammond

JOHN DRYDEN

Kerry McSweeney

GEORGE ELIOT

Tony Sharpe

T. S. ELIOT

Harold Pagliaro

HENRY FIELDING

Andrew Hook

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Mary Lago

E. M. FORSTER

Shirley Foster
ELIZABETH GASKELL

Neil Sinyard

GRAHAM GREENE

James Gibson

THOMAS HARDY

Gerald Roberts
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Kenneth Graham

HENRY JAMES

W. David Kaye

BEN JONSON

Phillip Mallett
RUDYARD KIPLING

John Worthen

D. H. LAWRENCE

Angela Smith

KATHERINE MANSFIELD

Lisa Hopkins
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

Cedric C. Brown

JOHN MILTON

Peter Davison

GEORGE ORWELL

Linda Wagner-Martin

SYLVIA PLATH

Felicity Rosslyn

ALEXANDER POPE

Richard Dutton

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Page 97

a metaphor of Hughes the perfect husband as teacher rather than go
into details of what she sees as their physical, sexual compatibility.6

Coded as perfection, Hughes can therefore be identified as the
source of her further education – a characterization her mother, a
student who married her professor, would surely approve – as well
as, or instead of, the source of physical pleasure. Her emphasis on
his erudition not only makes him a worthy spouse; it places him in
the family tradition of Otto Plath, the learned and stable educator.
Sylvia, accordingly, begins to play Aurelia’s role as the learned
man’s mate – and she does so with enthusiasm.

Ted Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s areas of information are, in fact,
quite different. When a college woman at Smith, Plath studied
modern poetry with the authoritative Elizabeth Drew, who wrote
widely read introductions to the subject and was considered a
premier teacher. It was through Drew that Plath got her personal
audience with W. H. Auden, who visited the Smith campus each
spring, giving a reading and talking with a few chosen students.
Although Plath felt that he was not enthusiastic about her poems,
she at least had an interview with him – and her reputation on the
Smith campus, and in the area, was as a leading writer. Had it not
been, and had she not been considered a brilliant student in Drew’s
class, she would not have been chosen to meet with Auden.

Auden’s position in American poetry of the l950s equaled that of
T. S. Eliot. Both in a chameleon-like stage of national allegiance,
their work marked the apex of New Critical form – ironic, allusive,
carefully metered and shaped. Few improprieties (such as the exis-
tence of any recognizable personal voice) marred their current
writing, or their past reputations. Poems to model the work of
young writers on – these were the legacy of Eliot and Auden. And
to deal with such writers, Plath and her contemporaries were
indeed asked to model, to copy. As we have seen in much of Plath’s
college poetry, the well-turned phrase, the attention to an exacting
formal pattern, and ingenuity with end rhyme and internal asso-
nance insured her winning college prizes, and some publication in
national magazines. At this stage in her work, however, there was
little in her work that could be identified as a Sylvia Plath voice.

Although Hughes is British, and therefore might be expected to
proffer even quicker allegiance to the Auden–Eliot nexus, he prided
himself on being an outsider to the Cambridge community.7 After
two years of being a literature major, he studied social anthropology
at Pembroke, and his literary leanings were – by his design – much

84 Plath: A Literary Life

Page 98

more ribald, rougher, idiomatic, and much less allusive than the
poetry that was then acceptable. Or perhaps his allusions were to
different kinds of knowledge, references to other than classroom
literary study. As one of his contemporaries wrote, ‘‘Ted had sized
up Cambridge early and rejected most of it, the Englishness, in the
precious and public school sense.’’8 Hughes’s work after graduation
was in a rose garden, or a warehouse, or the film industry; once he
had saved some money at those jobs, he returned to Cambridge and
lived with friends as he wrote and talked poetry at the Anchor, a
pub on the Cam. Neither were his friends likely to be the well-
trained literary products of elite British schooling; they were more
often outsiders to that tradition – ‘‘Scots, Welshmen, Irishmen,
Northcountrymen, and jazz musicians,’’9 as one of Hughes’ Amer-
ican friends recalled.

It was this group of students and recent graduates who published
the one-issue literary magazine Saint Botolph�s Review that was the
occasion for the party at which Plath and Hughes met. Suitably, it
was a tough iconoclastic little magazine – hardly a predictable
product of Cambridge-educated men. The rebelliousness of it was
part of its attraction for Plath, who had in her year at Newnham
already made herself the topic of gossip because of her tall beauty,
her easy sexuality, and her writing of low-brow fashion articles.
Something of an oddity, she was far from being considered an
interesting poet. Too derivative, too highly schooled, too timid –
although rejection slips used more polite phrases, she had trouble
convicing the Saint Botolph literary scene that her work was of any
importance. To begin with, of course, she was a naive American.
The second mark against her was that she was female; the group of
poets who produced Saint Botolph�s Review consisted of Daniel
Huws, Danny Weissbort, David Ross, Luke Myers, and Ted
Hughes, aided by the American history student Bert Wyatt-
Brown.10

Ted Hughes’s work in the Review struck Sylvia like a voice from
within her own psyche. Of the four poems, three were untitled, but
the force of their direct language made the reader attend to their
unannounced themes. The fourth poem, which opened, ‘‘If I should
touch her she would shriek and weeping/ Crawl off to nurse the
terrible wound,’’ shows the dour life of the woman persona who
‘‘goes to bed early, shuts out with the light/ Her thirty years, and lies
with buttocks tight.’’11 (Later, in Plath’s poem ‘‘A Life,’’ a woman
who might be the victim of this demonic touching does crawl away
to lead a ruined existence.) Different from his blunt poem about men

The Journey Toward Ariel 85

Page 193

Plath, Sylvia, (Contd.)
‘‘Other, The’’ 125, 140
‘‘Other Two, The’’ 87
‘‘Ouija’’ 16–17
‘‘Owl’’ 91
‘‘Paralytic’’ 141, 145
‘‘ParliamentHill Fields’’ 74–5, 93
‘‘Pheasant’’ 92, 124, 140
‘‘Platinum Summer’’ 23, 20
‘‘Poem for a Birthday’’ 63, 76–7,

93–4 (‘‘Stones,’’ 93–4)
‘‘Poems, Potatoes’’ 89
‘‘Poppies in July’’ 125
‘‘Poppies in October’’ 141
‘‘Purdah’’ 111, 140
‘‘Pursuit’’ 109
‘‘Rabbit Catcher, The’’

(‘‘Snares’’) 77–8, 91, 125–8,
140

‘‘Rival, The’’ 95, 98
‘‘Secret, A’’ 140
‘‘Sleep in the Mojave Desert’’ 92
‘‘Smoky Blue Piano, The’’ 23–4
‘‘Snakecharmer’’ 16–17
‘‘Song of the Wild Geese’’ 24
‘‘Stillborn’’ 89
‘‘Stone Boy with Dolphin’’ 22–3
‘‘Stopped Dead’’ 140
‘‘Suicide off Egg Rock’’ 92–3
‘‘Sunday at the Mintons’’ 8,

18–19
‘‘Superman and Paula Brown’s

New Snowsuit’’ 16
‘‘Surgeon at 2 a.m.’’ 92
‘‘Sweetie Pie and the Gutter

Man’’ 40
‘‘Three Women’’ (‘‘3 Sisters’

Exercise’’ ‘‘Three Voices’’)
100–3, 105–6, 115, 133

‘‘Tongues of Stone’’ 15–16
‘‘Totem’’ 103–4, 141
‘‘Trouble-Making Mother’’

29–30
‘‘Tulips’’ (‘‘Sick Room Tulips,’’

‘‘Tulips in Hospital’’) 64–5,
67–70, 78, 115

‘‘Two Lovers and a Beachcomber
by the Real Sea’’ 87–8, 109,
111

‘‘Unabridged Journals of Sylvia
Plath, The’’ 148

‘‘Whiteness I Remember’’ 117
‘‘Whitsun’’ 75, 149–50
‘‘Winter Trees’’ 98
‘‘Wintering’’ 110, 128, 140
‘‘Wishing Box, The’’ 88
‘‘Words’’ 141, 143–4, 146
‘‘Words for a Nursery’’ 110
‘‘Words heard, by accident, over

the phone’’ 125
‘‘Years’’ 145
‘‘You’re’’ 93
‘‘Zoo Keeper’s Wife’’ 76–7, 89

Plath, Warren 4, 26, 31, 39, 121
Pollitt, Katha 147, 152
Pound, Ezra (‘‘In a Station of the

Metro’’) 138–9
Pritchard, William H. 147
Prouty, Olive Higgins 123, 136,

138
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 142, 146

Radin, Paul 64, 103
Ransom, John Crowe 86
Review, The 141
Rich, Adrienne 106, 134, 136–7

Diamond Cutters, The 136
‘‘Living in Sin,’’ 136
‘‘Evil Eye, The,’’ 137
‘‘Moving in Winter,’’ 137

Roethke, Theodore 110–11, 137
Rose, Jacqueline (Haunting of Sylvia

Plath, The) xi, 32, 126–8
Rosenberg, Ethel and Julius 34
Ross, David 85

St. Augustine (Confessions) 143–4
St. Botolph�s Review 85
Sagar, Keith 86
Salinger, J.D. (The Catcher in the

Rye) 146
Saturday Evening Post, The 30
Schober, Aurelia see Plath, Aurelia
Schober, Aurelia Greenwood 5–7,

15, 25, 29
Schober, Frank, Jr. 16
Schober, Frank, Sr. 5–7, 11–16, 25,

29

180 Index

Page 194

Scott, Sir Walter 4
Sexton, Anne 134–6, 147

All My Pretty Ones, 134, 136
To Bedlam and Part Way

Back, 136
‘‘Kind Sir: These Woods,’’ 135
‘‘Some Foreign Letters,’’ 135
‘‘You, Dr. Martin,’’ 136
‘‘Double Image, The,’’ 136
‘‘Story for Rose, A,’’ 136

sexuality 15, 29–31, 35–54, 128–30
Shakespeare, William 83, 114–15,

140
Tempest, The, 114–25, 140

Shapiro, Karl 137
Simpson, Louis 88, 134
Smith, Dave 147
Smith, Stevie 106
Smith College 18–19, 30, 33, 62, 66,

83–4, 86, 88, 109, 119
Smith College, Rare Books

Room 90, 153
Snodgrass, W. D. (Heart�s

Needle) 134, 136, 147
Spender, Stephen 108
Spillane, Mickey 49
Stafford, William 134, 136–7
Starbuck, George 137

Teasdale, Sara 13
Tennant, Emma (Sylvia and

Ted) 148
Thackeray, William M. 4
Thomas, Dylan 83, 100

Under Milkwood, 100
Trakl, Georg 134

Van Dyne, Susan 112–13, 120,
128

Ventura, Mary 21–2
Voices and Visions Plath

program 27

Warren, Robert Penn (Understanding
Poetry) 27

Weeks, Edward 109–10
Weissbort, Danny 85
Wevill, Assia Guttman 97, 103,

122, 124–5, 148
Wevill, David 122, 124
Wheeler, William Morton 12
Whittemore, Reed 134
Wilbur, Richard 88, 134, 137
Williams, William Carlos 80, 92,

134, 137
Woolf, Virginia 13, 103, 106, 117,

139
The Waves, 103, 111

Wright, James 135
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram 85

Yalom, Marilyn 40, 63–4
Yeats, William Butler 116–18, 138,

144–5
‘‘He and She’’ 117–18
‘‘To Dorothy Wellesley’’ 117

Yorke, Liz 106–7, 110

Index 181

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