29 June 2008

Sylvia Plath Trivia - Answers!

On the 16th of June (Bloomsday and Plath's anniversary), I posted a trivia quiz which, sadly, went unanswered. Therefore, the $2 (£1.00270, €1.26984) cash prize goes to me.

1) Between the Fall of 1948 and August 1949, how many boys did Sylvia Plath date?

A: 37
B: 25
C: 21
D: 16
E: 99 (the sum of A-D)
F: None of the above

Answer: The answer to question 1 is C, 21. In Plath's 1949 journal, held at the Lilly Library, Plath lists all her dates for posterity. The 1949 journal is the first of its kind; her private thoughts and writing prior to this being more diary-like. Do you know what I mean in differentiating them? For those who have read Plath's early diaries, you will. The 1949 writing seems more sophisticated and and deeper. This is when Plath wrote her now famous statement: "I think I would like to call myself 'the girl that wanted to be God.'"

2) True or False:

Prior to Sylvia Plath's breakdown and suicide attempt in 1953 and the subsequent therapy - which continued in person through 1959 - she had a decent opinion about her childhood? Please support your answer with a compelling statement or argument.

Answer: The answer two question 2 is far more subjective. But I think the answer would be true, Plath did have a good opinion of her childhood prior to the bad effects of psychotherapy. Plath's later poetry really does turn against her parents; but is it necessarily justified? A full examination of Plath's life is necessary, but I encourage readers to not ignore the materials from Plath's childhood. Taken in the context of her life during the time, I think the young Sylvia Plath coped quite well with being fatherless. She had a mother, brother, and grandparents in close proximity to her who always, always gave her the love and attention she needed. I think the therapy Plath underwent through the 1950s did more to distort the truth than to reveal it.

Again, it would benefit your opinion on the matter if you've read through Plath's 1940s era letters, journals, and scrapbooks. This was the World War II era, so times were tough...there was rationing, and this was a period when women routinely had to work as the men were off fighting.

And as for Otto being a controlling, domineering figure in Plath's life - I suspect this may be a usurpation (à la "The Disquieting Muses") of another's feelings and experiences. Once Plath was old enough for walking, talking, and then writing, Otto Plath was far too ill, I think, to have been such a figure as is previously portrayed. But, if we remember, Aurelia Plath did much of the research and organization for Otto Plath's Bumbleebees and Their Ways and was barely acknowledged for her effort. I suspect Aurelia Plath may have harbored anger and frustration towards Otto, but the young Sylvia did appear to love and admire the man.

There is more so say on the subject; if anyone else would care to weigh in (anonymously or not).


erzsebet said...

Drat! I was hoping to steal a few minutes with the journals & letters home to formulate an answer to Question 2 before you posted, but it just never happened... I'll admit, I was only ever going to guess the answer to the first question!

Put the $2 towards something Plath-y,


Susan T said...

I too was hoping to steal a few moments and respond. In terms of question two, it's funny, as I agree and disagree with you. I think the therapy definately brought things to the surface, that is, after all, it's aim. So in that sense, it wasn't all bad. Those feelings were somewhere in there. And most of the bad ones seem to be aimed directly at Aurelia. I.e. the frantic paced entry where Sylvia's given permission to hate her mother, and so many doors seem to be opened. I do agree with you in the sense that Otto was viewed through the lens of Aureila, and that many of the feelings Sylvia harbors for or about him need to be evaluated with this in mind. One of the most tragic images of her childhood and its relationship to her failing father's health are the songs she and Warren would sing, or the poetry they would read to an ailing Otto, then they would be ushered out of the room. It rings of falseness and distance. And the director of such performances was none other than Aurelia herself. Point Shirley is a hopeful memory in its way of her childhood and ocean 1212W has its moments, but even there, she can't let herself move toward those moments of peace and happiness one might find in a childhood spent in part near the ocean. Rather she fixates on the separateness she feels at the birth of Warren, or the destruction of a wild storm.
I suppose the real question is, where would we all be if she chose to filter her life through a default lens of happiness and positivity rather than the rocky and hard road of self study and introspection.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.