04 October 2012

Sylvia Plath: Copycat

Recently I had cause to revisit Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual edited by Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley (2007, OUP, sadly out of print). It is absolutely an essential book for Plath's readers. The illustrations alone are worth it to own.

In Kathleen's wonderful book-length essay "Living Color: The Interactive Arts of Sylvia Plath" there is a reference to a book, An Ear for Uncle Emil by E. R. Gaggin, Plath read that wasn't - but now is - listed in her library on LibraryThing. Plath presumably read this book circa 1944 and was inspired to copy one of the many illustrations drawn by Kate Seredy in the book, which was first published in 1939.

Plath of course learned some of her drawing skills by copying, and it is analogous to suggest she learned to write poetry in the same way: by copying. Of course there were innate skills that she brought to each art form: I'm not suggesting otherwise.

In considering the drawing reproduced in Eye Rhymes, on page 12, I thought: would it not be interesting to see what the original looked like? Fortunately a local college library holds the book so I went over there yesterday to find the source. Below is the original, and beneath, courtesy of Google Books, Plath's drawing.

Update: 17 November 2015:
Today, reading Plath's diary, I learned that this drawing was completed on Wednesday, 19 July 1944.


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

A sweet little German girl--copied during the Battle of Normandy! I wonder how much of world events she paid attention to at almost twelve years old.

Alice in East Washington said...

Well, you know I like this post. She did much the same thing with her version of Snow White, which strongly echoes Disney's. I can't believe -Eye Rhymes- is out of print:(! I bought mine at the last Plath symposium, so I have the British version. A treasured book in my house.

Carole Brooks Platt, Ph.D. said...

Your are a gem, Peter. I agree with Alice that it's incredible that such a book would be out of print already. I tried to buy Heather Clark's book on Amazon, at your suggesting, and found the cheapest price was $99. This is the problem with academic presses, who cater to libraries and charge hefty prices. I can get the book at my university library but I do like to mark up my copies as I research.

Plath's choice of drawings or outdoor scenes or objects to copy shows her preference for realistic, intricate portrayals that are linearly oriented. I think this says something about her cerebral organization.

Carole Brooks Platt, Ph.D. said...

I just bought a copy of Eye Rhymes from Amazon.com; they have a number of new and used copies at very affordable rates.

P.S. I'm reading Chapters in a Mythology right now. This is an absolutely must read! Theres is so much valuable information in it. As an aside, I used Robert Graves's The White Goddess as the theoretical background in my own doctoral dissertation.

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