07 June 2007

Sylvia Plath essays

Jo Gill, editor of the 2006 Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, also edited Modern Confessional Writing: New Critical Essays (Routledge: 2005, ISBN: 0415339693). In the book, there are three essays that deal with Plath. They are:

  • "Dangerous Confessions: the problem of reading Sylvia Plath biographically" by Tracy Brain
  • "Confessing the Body: Plath, Sexton, Berryman, Lowell, Ginsberg and the gendered poetics of the 'real'" by Elizabeth Gregory
  • "'Your Story. My Story': confessional writing and the case of Birthday Letters" by Jo Gill

I am most of the way through Tracy Brain's essay and find it interesting; I am huge Brain fan and thoroughly enjoy and recommend her The Other Sylvia Plath. To my surprise, a review of The Restored Ariel that I wrote and published via The Sylvia Plath Forum is quoted!

In the last few years, there has been a critical backlash against Plath and biography, due in part to the fictionalization of Plath in two novels, and the biopic starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Plath and her biography are linked inextricably, and far too many people (myself included perhaps) rely too heavily on Plath's biography. Perhaps some find that using Plath's biography makes it easier to interpret her writing? I think for every argument against reading Plath biographically, there is also the case that one can benefit in their reading of Plath's writing because they have biographical knowledge. It certainly helps me! My experience of tracing and photographing Plath-related places has boosted my knowledge of her biography, and also has helped me to understand much of her writing. Seeing the places that Plath wrote about is an indispensable entracnce into the works.

Another recent essay, printed in Gill's Cambridge Companion, is by Susan R. van Dyne; that essay is the first in the book and is entitled "The problem of biography". Both the van Dyne and the Brain essays are well written, thoughtful, and convincing.

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