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!
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.
- 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)
- Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
- Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, 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. 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books. (Acknowledged in)
- Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
- Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
- Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
- 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. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
- 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. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
- "Banking on his passion for Plath" by Melissa Davis Haller. UMW Today. Spring 2005.
- "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" by Alison Flood. The Guardian. 3 December 2008.
- "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet" by Dalya Alberge. The Guardian. 17 August 2012.
- "There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath" by Ashley Fetters. The Atlantic. 11 February 2013.