30 December 2008

Sylvia Plath 2008: Year in review

Strides were made this year in continuing to shift the perception and reception of Sylvia Plath. Every few months, through a symposium, new book publications, or news worthy events, Sylvia Plath proved to remain fresh and vital. Two major events took place in 2008: the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Smith College in April and the publication of the online journal Plath Profiles in August.

The Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford, held in October 2007, was reprodcued on a smaller scale for an American audience at Smith College on April 25 & 26, 2008. Organized in large part by Oxford participant and Smith student Aubrey Menard, the two day event highlighted Plath's continued prominence in academic scholarship, as well as her hold on the attention of the public. Julia Stiles and Tristine Skyler attended both days and proved dedicated to conducting research into their forthcoming film adaptation of The Bell Jar. The two-day event featured a community reading of Plath's restored Ariel in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, a presentation of papers selected among those given at Oxford, and a panel of a group of Sylvia Plath's friends from high school and college, which included Judith Kroll. Scholars from around the US and the world enjoyed a friendly and informative atmosphere. After the event, Julia Stiles submitted the first guest post to Sylvia Plath Info Blog in the form of a letter addressed to Smith College President Carol Christ regarding her film project.

Before and after the Symposium, buzz was building for Plath Profiles, the new online interdisciplinary journal for Sylvia Plath studies. Launched on 10 August 2008, the first volume has proven very popular. Editor W. K. Buckley assembled an international Editorial Board, and the contributions to the first volume were mostly adapted from papers given at Oxford. In addition to new, original essays, the first volume includes two book reviews by Luke Ferretter, five poems inspired by Plath, and artwork by two women (Kristina Zimbakova and Amanda Robins ) who have been inspired by Plath in their chosen mode of expression. On the whole, the freshness and vitality mentioned above is reflected in Volume 1. The journal, online and completely free, will be a valuable resource in the future to Plath scholarship. To date, both the entire volume and the individual essays have been downloaded thousands of times. If you've read an essay or poem or had a reaction to the artwork, consider sending in a response to Plath Profiles which may open an interesting discussion. We are accepting submissions for Volume 2, which should be out around the same time in 2009. It does not matter how old you are, Plath Profiles seeks to print good essays and does not intend to be academically driven or elitist.

2008 saw new editions of Plath's Collected Poems and Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams in the US. Both received face lifts. Both of the covers (CP, JPBD) feature concentric circles and thus remind me of Faber's editions of The Bell Jar from the 1960s and 1970s. Some of you may remember that just last year, I gave the previous cover of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams the Lifetime Achievement in Ugly Plath Book Covers Award (the LAUPBCA).

In addition to these new editions, there were several new books on Plath. The following books appeared in print, all in the last three months of the year.

Jo Gill's Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge University Press)
Doris Kraler-Bergmann's Sylvia Plath Lyrical Responses to Works of Art: A Portrait of the Artist(s) (VDM Verlag) Raychel Haugrud Reiff's Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Marshall Cavendish Benchmark)

Sylvia Plath's library, scattered across America & possibly the world, came together in February as a part of LibraryThing's Legacy Libraries project. Legacy Libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers. The beauty of this site and project that members and non-members alike can see which books they share with these famous readers. The LibraryThing Legacy Library project and Sylvia Plath's Library were mentioned in articles that appeared in The Guardian, Fine Books & Collections, and Rare Book Review. More information on the project can be found on the I See Dead People's Books page and through posts on Jeremy's PhiloBiblos blog. Visitors to Smith College's Mortimer Rare Book Room will be treated to seeing Plath's library shelved next to their collection of first and rare editions of books authored by Plath.

In October, Ted Hughes posthumously made big news with the sale of more of his archive going to the British Library. While it is obviously a good thing that his papers remain in his home country, this segmentation of his archive will have scholars straddling the Atlantic to see these papers and the papers already held at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. 2008 was also the 10 year anniversary of both Hughes's Birthday Letters (the book that launch a thousand arguments) and his death.

In January, after 10 years of activity, the Sylvia Plath Forum closed shortly after the death of its founder, Elaine Connell. The Sylvia Plath Forum was a wonderful place to discuss, at first, Birthday Letters, and then so much more. Although it is closed to new submissions, the whole archive is still available online and is a valuable research tool and resource on the web. For many years it was the first website I visited each morning, and during high discussion periods, was a site I continually refreshed throughout the day.

My "other" site for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, had a big year. A mid-fall site re-design went smoothly and received pretty good feedback. In May, The New York Times ran an article which, at the end, recommended the site. A true honor, indeed. In terms of content, much was added: especially in the bibliography pages, as well as the addition of many new book covers. The five most popular pages (in order of popularity) on A celebration, this is are: the biography, thumbs 1960-1963, poetry works, thumbs 1932-1942, and The Bell Jar. It is more difficult to gauge the least popular pages as some have been online for less than a full year or were removed/merged when I did the re-design. However, in terms of hits, the four least visited pages (in order) are: Works about Sylvia Plath, Works Reviews, Collections, and Johnny Panic synopses.

A Look Ahead

There will be a couple of new books on Plath published in 2009. Luke Ferretter's Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study will be published by Edinburgh University Press sometime in the spring or summer; and Connie Ann Kirk's 2004 biography Sylvia Plath is scheduled to be published in paperback in April. These books are listed on Amazon. Listed on Chelsea House's website is Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar by Harold Bloom, as part of his Bloom's Literary Criticism series. This appears to be a collection of essays on the topic of The Bell Jar, look for this sometime around February. Amazon.co.uk has a couple of titles planned as well. A re-issue of The Bell Jar in May, as well as a book entitled Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. This is likely a new edition of Plath's selected poems. These are both called 80th Anniversary editions (2009 is the 80th Anniversary of Faber). My dream is for a re-issue of The Bell Jar with the original Heinemann cover. A few years ago The Catcher in the Rye was reprinted using the same cover as the first edition published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1951.

The Jermyn Street Theatre in London is performing Plath's "Three Women" in January and February 2009. The Guardian's Alison Flood reported on 3 December 2008. The performance, stage directing, setting, actresses, directing, etc. will be pivotal, but it is Plath's words - her work - that will receive some much needed attention. Starring Elizabeth Dahl, Tilly Fortune, and Lara Lemon, "Three Women" will run from Monday 5 January through 7 February.

In 2008, this blog saw more than 25,000 visitors. Thank you, whoever you are and wherever you are for visiting. I especially thank those who have made comments. My wish for 2009 is for more comments on posts as well as having more guest contributions. If you hear of Plath-related events or want to write a review of a book, please consider Sylvia Plath Info Blog as a place for it to appear. I appreciate those who publicly "Follow" the blog (see list on the sidebar) and those that do so anonymously. Lastly, I am in the process of finishing a manuscript of new book on Plath and though I hoped for it to be done by now, I do have plans to finish it at some point in 2009! Details later.


Sorlil said...

Thanks, Peter, for your continual gathering together of Plath-related material for scholars and fans, it's very much much appreciated. May 2009 be a prosperous year for you.

Melanie Smith said...

Have a fabulous 2009 Peter. Your sites remain valuable and engaging resources. OOH your current manuscript has me excited, any hints on the focus (other than Plath).


Al said...

Hope you have a great year in general and in terms of Plath scholarship, Peter! Thanks for all the hard work you've put into the site.

angelictenderbutton said...

Thank you Peter. I've recently started reading your blog and I appreciate all your hard work and dedication. Wonderful job!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you all for your kind words and support! Plath on!

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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.