23 October 2012

Update from the Archive Day 2

This morning I continued looking at Sylvia Plath's calendars in Plath Mss II, Box 7, Folder 6. The calendar was October 1955 - early October 1956: or, her first year as a Fulbright Scholar at Newnham College, Cambridge University. The majority of the morning was spent comparing undated letters to a former boyfriend, J Mallory Wober, to the minute details Plath recorded in her calendar. The structure of her days at Newnhan are meticulously recorded down the hour, including lectures, ADC rehearsals, meetings for tea and sherry, dates, letters written, papers due, food consumed, physical ailments: basically an encyclopedia of autobiography. Mostly likely caught up in the passion of the archive I will say that there is no need to read a biography of Sylvia Plath when one could simply come here (simply is most definitely not the right word since I believe this is one of the harder archives to get to - but it could be worse, no offense Wyoming: but it could be in Wyoming) and spent a week reading Plath's life written by Plath. Between the calendars here, the letters to her family and others, if one was truly interested in Plath's formative years through her early 20s one would really only need come here.

And come here you should because the Lilly Library is just awesome.

After I got the the point where I was satisfied with my dating of the letters to Wober, I carried on studying the days of Sylvia Plath's life. Through the tumultuous end of her relationship to Richard Sassoon and the darkness that was late January and early February 1956 - to the miraculous meeting with Hughes and the passion of their new love and life together - the agony of being separated, the decision to marry and their Spanish honeymoon - late August and September in Yorkshire, and the return to Cambridge.

There is another calendar for October 1956 - September 1957, and it largely filled in faithfully through November when she and Hughes took up residence together at 55 Eltisely Avenue. But after that as the rigors of her academic pursuits mounted there was far less information captured. Which is understandable but also a disappointment.

And by the time I got to the last page it was time to depart for the day.

I learned more about Sylvia Plath's life in these two days than I thought possible. I learned so much that I do not know how to even begin disseminating the information to you: the greedy readers. I wish there was a way but I can certainly safely say the much - if not all of what I did learn - will be made know in the work I do. Through papers like the "These Ghostly Archives" series with the estimable Gail Crowther and papers I do on my own. Happily there are some significant improvements to two of my presentations (on Sylvia Plath's correspondence with The New Yorker magazine and "Sylvia Plath: Palimpsestic Writer" on imagery in the poems and The Bell Jar) are possible from the materials I have used the last two days.

Conducting research alongside Amanda Golden, Christine Walde and David Trinidad (at all at the same table) and Julia Gordon-Bramer and Tracy Brain at the table next to us has proven to be simply wonderous. There is such a friendly and collegial atmosphere.

Tomorrow starts the Sylvia Plath Symposium so it'll sadly mean less archives time, but more being among peers, meeting new wonderful people and listening to fascinating papers. Updates throughout via the blog and Twitter!

4 comments :

Jeanine Magana said...

one word, wow.

Anonymous said...

Thank u very very much Peter for all your updates about Sylvia and the amazing work u're doing! Yes u have to remember u have here many greedy readers waiting for u to come onto your blog and giving us/writing down for us your precious informations and discoveries. Which otherwise it would be impossible e.g. to get here in Italy where,alas,Sylvia is not so much known and infos/material/books/are non-existant and where the ONLY books u find(and not in all bookstores)are The Bell Jar and Johnny Panic and where i think(well im sure of this)i am the only true faithful and deep old fan/reader+researcher and if nowadays i own all the books by/about her i have,and about which im so jealous,i must thank the existence of ebay and my patience and dedication(and the money!) and for great part of what i ve learnt about her,in all these years,goes to the nostalgic forum by the dear Elaine, where i literally spent my afternoons after work, where i "met" you and many other amazing persons from where i ve learnt so much(also some english!;-)) but my deepest thanks go to u+your website and saint Google ;-) for such a detailed and accurated work. And hope u could also take some pics in Lilly and the other libraries+archives(they'd be so precious for us who cannot move from home/go abroad and visit+study in those places)
again thank u Peter and keep up with your amazing and precious work! Waiting for further updates, love and esteem from Italy,
Alessandra
P.s. Please apologize my horrible english.but it's very hard for me.
Have a great day and week.

Anonymous said...

And i apologize for the absurd length of my comment,omg, if then,compared to Jeanine's one ;-) which im only now realizing. ..but i've never been much of a one for conciseness :'( ..plus add im not english. But it was important for me to come here and thank.

Alessandra

Peter K Steinberg said...

Alessandra - Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to know that the little blog posts and words I put out there are read: and are read with such seeming interest. I appreciate the lengths that you went through: one word versus many: it is simply the thought that counts. In the next days I will try to photograph the building. I cannot photograph the materials I work with (the manuscripts, scrapbooks, calendars, etc.) But, perhaps the interior of the reading room with researchers present might help place how we are working.

I will certainly endeavor to keep you and any other readers informed of events, topics, thoughts, etc.

pks

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