27 October 2010

Plath Profiles Volume 3 Supplement Published

Today, on the 78th birthday of Sylvia Plath, Plath Profiles publishes a special supplement to Volume 3. For those of you that read Emily Banas’ press release on 11 October, this comes as no surprise.

The special issue celebrates the 10th anniversary of the publication of Plath’s Unabridged Journals, edited by Karen V. Kukil of Smith College. The issue is also serves to acknowledge, celebrate, and honor not only the work Karen did on the Journals, but also all that she had done for Sylvia Plath scholarship and researchers in her capacity as both Associate Curator of Rare Books and the scholarly supervisor of the Sylvia Plath Collection at the Moritmer Rare Book Room.

I have known Karen since May 1998, when I made my first visit to the Mortimer Rare Book Room. Karen made me feel far more welcome than I believe I deserved to be! In the 12 years since that first research trip, I’ve made numerous return visits to Smith; I simply cannot get enough! Karen is a mentor and an inspiration. Her maiden name Valuckas is even strangely similar to Plath’s pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. We all like Plathian connections and none seems as coincidental and appropriate as this.

Each of the contributors to this supplement were asked to do one simple thing: to write an essay on any aspect of the Journals. In doing so, we have an amazing assortment of approaches to this tome, and it shows how Plath scholars read, teach, and work with the the book. The two essays by Karen Kukil and Kate Moses are fuller, unedited versions of previously published material.

The contents of the issue are:

"This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath" by Peter K. Steinberg

"Reviving the Journals of Sylvia Plath" by Karen V. Kukil

"The Real Sylvia Plath" by Kate Moses

"The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath: Ten Years On" by Luke Ferretter

"Virtually There In Boston" by Gail Crowther

"Reading the Paratexts of Plath’s Unabridged Journals" by Anita Helle

"Learning from Students" by Dianne M. Hunter

"Sylvia Plath on Charing Cross Road" by Amanda Golden

"'Books & Babies & Beef Stews': The Culinary Passion of Sylvia Plath" by Jessica Ferri

"Hidden in Plain Sight: On Sylvia Plath's Missing Journals" by David Trinidad

We also feature two advertisements: one for Heather Clark’s forthcoming (November 2010) The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and the other for the British Library’s The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath.

Read the issue!


Anonymous said...

I didn't read the press release so this is a wonderful surprise. I do love a good old festschrift! Excellent work and congrats to all involved.


Anonymous said...

Peter, Great to see you've been up to something special for Sylvia's birthday. I've often thought there's not enough writing being done on the Journals. Sorry I've been out of touch for so long. I've recently had cancer surgery and I'm at home now going through a long course of chemo. It's nice to have something new to read. Cheers, Jim Long

Peter K Steinberg said...

Cath! Thanks, hope that you enjoy the issue.

Jim, please get well soon and know that we are all thinking about you and wishing you well.

Yes, Plath's Journals are a great gift. About a year ago when I thought this up I was curious to see what if anything would be made of their 10th anniversary. Save for this Plath Profiles issue it's been a fat lot of nothing. Her letters are so undervalued too: not just those in Letters Home, but the other letters too: her professional/business correspondence, and correspondence with friends like Clarissa Roche, Gordon Lameyer; even her high school pen pal Hans-Joachim Neupert.

Thank goodness for Luke Ferretter's recent Sylvia Plath's Fiction, which opens for discussion a serious consideration of her work in that genre.

Jim, please be well.


Anna said...

I'm so excited to read this! Thank you for such a great birthday gift (for Sylvia)!

Btw, I'm gonna read Luke Ferretter's book over the weekend! Can't wait :)


Melanie Smith said...

Dons birthday hat.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have just finished reading it (stopping for a few hours to go to the gym, shower and prepare and eat dinner - and to look up hyperacusis and the radium dial workers on the internet).

The David Trinidad piece is one of the best articles on Plath I have ever read (and I have been reading things by or about Plath for some 23 years now...) I *did* enjoy it Peter - very much.
Cath again.

Peter K Steinberg said...


Thank you for your comment. You've had a full day and I'm sure David will be thrilled to know how you feel. From the emails I've been receiving, a number of people agree with you.


Julia said...

Thanks for this! I'm looking forward to diving in.

"I am sure it is unique. I am sure it is just what I want."

Anonymous said...

Peter! Congrats - I've been reading the articles all night - they're all great! I can't help thinking "Festivus, a festival for the rest of us" when I read the word Festschrift :-) When reading Gail's paper, I was thinking of the sculptures by Rachel Whiteread - she casts the empty spaces under chairs, empty bathtubs and even empty rooms - making concrete the absences we see everyday but often do not notice.

Jim! So good to see you here - get well soon! Kim

Anonymous said...

This issue is so wonderful. I can't think of a better Plath Profiles; it's focus is unmatched, and Karen Kukil is deserving of this and so much more for all her hard work. The quote from Plath you selected to open the volume is so appropriate. Very inspirational.

Marion McCready said...

Just to say with the others how wonderfully insightful the David Trinidad article is. A fantastic issue overall, thankyou!!

panther said...

I was surprised and really pleased to log on here the other day and find all these great articles concerning the journals. Have to agree with Anonymous that not enough has been written on these journals. Until now.

Peter, I think I read somewhere that the journals have almost no crossings-out in them, i.e. that Plath must have written each entry, crafted it, and THEN copied it out into her journal. This seems a very odd thing to do with a journal and underlines what a perfectionist she was. And doesn't it result in a certain loss of immediacy ?

Peter K Steinberg said...


I hope you like the essays on the Journals very much. If you have reactions to any of them, please consider posting a response to Plath Profiles.

I agree it is and odd thing you may have read somewhere. I'd like to know where you read this if you can find it. Where are the original sheets if this is the case? Tracy Brain and others (I think) have commented on what exactly constitutes Plath's journals because they exist in a variety of formats: bound volumes, loose sheets, additional notebooks, etc. Karen was faithful in recording that her therapy notes with Dr. Beuscher in 1958-59 were considered a NOTEBOOK. And this is likely something that required a different mindset; different stamina and different emotional investment to a journal, which I think the bound 1950-53 volume (which we reproduce on the cover of the issue) more accurately can be described as. But as a collective title, I'm guessing calling them Journals makes the most sense.

From my perspective, I think Plath likely agonized - for lack of a better term - over her journals: she was sure of what she was thinking and so the writing of it therefore was more considered and more composed, say, than from her poetry, which has crossouts in abundance. So, I agree each entry is crafted. But I think the absence of crossouts doesn't necessarily warrant the conclusions drawn. Even Plath's prose drafts are "clean" to a certain degree. (Except The Bell Jar, which has understandably more in the way of revisions.)

And I think this plays into her perfectionism: she wrote or typed carefully and methodically. And she was a faithful enough journal writer that I think she just didn't mess up: though she does have typographical errors.

Even if she did write and entry and then copy it into her journal, I do not think this takes away from the immediacy to which I experienced when working with the documents. Also, when I discussed the "immediacy" I wasn't talking about the entries themselves as they were composed, or even what those entries say, but I was reacting to the finished product. To the archived documents themselves. I can only recommend you travel to Smith sometime to see the real thing; or to Indiana to see her dairies up to 1950. Then you'll know what I was going on about. And if you don't have the same reaction...you just don't. It was the first time in 12 years - since my first visit to Smith - that I'd seen the journals... I was working with the material when I wrote much of that introduction: Karen was 10 feet away from me. I was burning up in the layers of Plath-zone.

Anonymous said...


In my opinion, the lack of markings would be typical of a journal or diary--something written quickly, stream of consciousness, and unedited. If you're not laboring over something to make it perfect, to find the best possible word, then you're not going to bother to go back and cross things out and rewrite them. The journals might show not her extreme perfectionism, but one of the areas where she let herself write freely.


Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you for your comment, this was something I was trying to say but failed miserably at attempting...


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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.