17 August 2012

Are You Our Sort of Person?: Otto Plath and the FBI

Did anyone read the list of featured speakers at the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium: The October Poems that I posted on 19 July"? Did anyone see the subject of Heather "The Grief of Influence" Clark's talk? Well, here it is, again: Heather Clark on Otto Plath's FBI files, Plath’s German heritage?

Journalist Dalya Alberge has written an article for The Guardian newspaper in London titled "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet." The focus of the article is Heather's subject, and how recently uncovered archival documents provide insight into Sylvia Plath's father, Otto Plath, who was briefly investigated by the FBI in October 1918. But if you cannot wait until October to hear what promises to be a gripping talk, click here to read the article.

Update: 18 August 2012
Daily Mail runs similar report: but with more photographs... Read "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father show he was investigated during World War I for pro-German sympathies" by Daily Mail Reporter. Note, that it is interesting to see, already, how the story has changed and is in someways completely unrecognizable.


Kristina Zimbakova said...

''Academics to attend include Peter K Steinberg, who unearthed the files.'' Not for nothing have I called you The Detective long ago. The topic of Clark's talk stroke me immediately and I just wondered... Peter=Star, this is mind-boggling, really.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Kristina! "We walk on air, Watson."

Thank you for your comment. I think it's the first time I've been called an "academic" which I think is making Academics the world over re-assess their identities and qualifications. Naturally, I just happened to get lucky and look in the right place...


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Woah! This is exciting!

I do agree with Heather (and you?) that he was a pacifist. All the evidence supports this. America was extremely anti-German after WWI and during and after WWII. Some states did not even allow the language to be spoken. I can see how someone might want to preserve his or her heritage, and that could be turned against them in wartime.

Can't wait for this symposium!

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

I should perhaps clarify: "...all the evidence of which I am aware supports this..." ;-)

Anonymous said...

Truly fascinating find, Peter!


The Plath Diaries said...

Absolutely fascinating, Peter!!

Anonymous said...

Über-exciting! Thanks for digging this up Peter. / Florian

Peter K Steinberg said...

~VC, The Plath Diaires, & Florian!

Thanks for your thanks. This was a simple instance of a happy accident...the internet is full of amazing things. And some scary things, too. But amazing things!

Julia, yes, I too think Otto was a pacifist. But that is really based on what other people have written or suggested and not because I am particularly knowledgeable about him, his beliefs, etc. Perhaps I do also a little bit precisely because of that passage quoted by Dalya in her article from Sylvia Plath's journal where she says he "heiled Hitler in the privacy of his own home." And I say this because of Plath's having been finished with (or relatively soon after) a psychoanalytic session: who knows the amount of prompting or coaxing or leading that went into that journal entry. The journal entry (12 Dec 1958 and some of the others) seems exaggerated to some degree. - Went off the deep end there...sorry!


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Agreed. That "heiled Hitler" entry, if I'm remembering correctly, was on the heels of all the mother-hate stuff Plath wrote too, right? She was just working things out, hyperbolizing excessive rage, it seems to me.

Anonymous said...

In Letters Home Aurelia mentions that Otto felt remorse when he accidentally stepped on an ant. I don't know but I think he was a genuine pacifist alright… / Florian

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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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • 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 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: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • 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.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (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. 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. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "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. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.