24 October 2012

Update from the Archive Day 3 & from the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium Day 1

Today was a continuation of research into Sylvia Plath's pocket book calendars in the Lilly Library. I had to double-back to finish the 1954-1955 calendar and I am still in amazement at the level of recorded detail that is available. The other day I commented about how a visit to the archives to read through everything could mean never having to read a biography of Plath and I think I still stand by that: though obviously the biographer's narrative lends a particular color to her life's story. Which can be interesting; like in a similar fashion to criticism: it's far more interesting to read the original writing than criticism about that writing. Though often it is interesting to see how the critics make connections and bring out hidden elements.

I spent a brief time re-looking at the Plath Mss materials that were acquired in 1961 as I needed to do some follow-up things. But I think the real focus of the day was the start of the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium.

Today's events were all about the archives: teaching with them, introducing students to primary source work, and it was really fascinating to see that (primarily undergraduate) students are working with Plath's papers and making significant and really interesting discoveries.

The first talk was Karen Kukil on teaching and learning with Smith College archives; this was followed by IU professor Christoph Irmscher and his teaching with Lilly archives. Two students, Meredith Kipp and Brittany Stigler, spoke very eloquently on what it was like as freshmen to study Plath, Plath’s teaching texts, techniques, and book marginalia. I wish I had had this kind of opportunity when I was an undergrad, even though I'm not even certain my college had a special collections department or anything like that. It's absolutely fascinating.

I was honored to have lunch with Karen Kukil, Tracy Brain, and Lynda K. Bundzten.

This went a little over, and so I did not attend the panel on archival-based poetic and research process, animated film and sound design. Which is a shame as I wanted to hear David Trinidad speak very much; I do not feel comfortable walking into things late, feeling it is disruptive. I have since learned that the panel started late, itself. Drat.

So, in the meantime I came back to the archive and then went over to the IU Art Museum to see the exhibition art of Linda Adele Goodine, Boris Lurie, Stella Vine and Kristina Zimbakova. The two Zimbakova pieces I cannot speak highly enough of; the Vine I can't speak lowly enough of. Goodine's were quite provocative and I completely missed the Lurie.

After this I sat in on the archive show and tell, which included a brief history of both the Lilly Library and Plath's affiliation with it (as in how the materials came from each of the accessions). The materials on display included, but are not limited to: two self-portraits from the 1950s (I think); two locks of her hair (one massive, the other a little smaller) (Plath's hair, considered a "fetish object" are among the most popular items requested in the archive), and then a lot of materials to do with her October 1961 poem "The Babysitters". These include the working drafts of the poem, as well as contextually relevant materials such as her calendar from 1951; photographs from summer 1951, letters. There were other items that would not fit on the table, such as a college art scrapbook with collages, and recently acquired juvenilia (which I saw in January 2010).


The Plath Diaries said...

What a great day it was, Peter! Really looking forward to your talk tomorrow (and Fri, and Sat!). Hope to get chatting to you a little more over the Symposium! :)

Peter K Steinberg said...

Maeve - I too look forward to some more talking time in the next days. Today wasn't nearly enough.

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