13 January 2010

Update from the Archive Day 3

Or, Sylvia Plath was smart.

Today was one of those days where one just goes on autopilot. Somehow, I took more than 20 pages of notes; 17 of those pages - gulp - are books to add to her library on LibraryThing. And I'm not even done! I looked through her junior high, high school, and college notebooks, and mixed in there was her Modern Art course notes, which she audited during the Spring of 1958. While I got through much more today than I thought, I also found much more than I anticpated. Truly amazing stuff. Now the course notes for Religion, English, other subjects don't really interest me, one gem jumped out as unusual.

Though labeled by Plath "Art", one notebook seems to be notes for subjects other than art. There were notes on child development, religion, and other topics. Possibly this one was used, also, as a notebook for her time as Press Board correspondent. But in addition, this one "Art" notebook seems to have been used, in August of 1951, as a journal to capture some thoughts and experiences during her time as a babysitter for the Mayo's. (See Box 11, folder 4).

Speaking of Press Board. The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College holds typescripts of Plath's press board correspondent submissions. These are untitled non-fiction works that detail the goings-on of the Smith campus for the local and regional newspapers. While Tabor lists only one clipping to Plath during her time on Press Board, I had about 45 hours to spare last year and went through 1952 and 1953 microfilms for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Springfield Daily News, and the Springfield Union. In the process, using said typescripts, I found 26 unattributed publications by Sylvia Plath! Some of these had the editorial treatment before they were printed - but they are still recognizable to Plath's submitted releases.

Now getting back to this notebook having a journal entry. Sylvia Plath archival materials are widely dispersed. Due to the nature of the stuff, there is some overlap with what Smith holds and what Indiana holds (these are the big two). Emory University's holdings add to the mix significantly. But, it is truly necessary to go to the archives frequently. Depending on the day, week, month or year you go, your are bound to see new things and in new ways. This makes for quite an enriching and enlivening experience - one in which I hope you can feel too in reading these updates.

Unlike yesterday, today day seemed far more focused so at its peak I had open only two documents and five web pages. However, overall it was a depressing day. I'm hardly the brightest crayon in the box, but Sylvia Plath was better read at 12 than I am at 35. By the time she graduated Smith, she was better read than I will be at 335 years old. Today was one of those days where the drinks tab at dinner more than doubled that of the food.

The art teacher, by the way, for Plath's undergraduate art course in which notebook was used for capturing things other than art, was Mr. Manzi. This name shoud ring a bell, if not, perhaps I will have to jar your memory?


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter - let me know if you run across any of her books that have a Rockwell Kent bookplate - it's in black and white with a red border and shows a seated woman reading a book with her chin propped up with her left hand, mountains behind her. I'm trying to figure out when and where she might have purchased The Three Nails book that I have - the bookplate is from the 50's but that's all I know. Keep up the good work - it's all very exciting! kim

panther said...

While I'm glad that SP was well-read- books are, after all, such a source of pleasure, information, joy, enlightenment, etc.-I do think it's worth bearing in mind that her reading to the extent that she did was, in part, a manifestation of her perfectionist nature.Which caused all sorts of trouble, as we know.

I am definitely not knocking the pursuit of reading ! I know that I for one would be all the poorer without it.

I hope, Peter, you have another good research day.

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