23 December 2012

Sylvia Plath 2012: Year in Review

The Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium dominated my thoughts this year. From January through October it was all I could think about, and not just because I was giving a few papers: but it was a chance to meet some of you, talk Plath and other subjects, and learn faces and voices to accompany your written words via comments and emails. The Symposium did not disappoint. The chance, too, to spend some time in the archives at the Lilly Library was something most of the attendees took advantage of: and it was really wonderful to see people interacting with Plath's papers for the first time. A new strain of archives fever was born! A number of us there had attended all three of the Symposia (2002, 2007, 2012). While no awards were given out for that, it was a small sense of pride.

Looking back through the blog to see what in the world was going on, largely from my perspective, in Sylvia Plathdom, shows quite a varied year. In January I spent a week at Smith College doing both some archives research and attending a documentary editing class taught by Karen V. Kukil. I pitched in bits of information when I could, but being around the students and learning the tricks of the documentary editing trade was really interesting. We edited letters from Sylvia Plath to a number of people. I was lucky enough to transcribe one letter to Phil McCurdy from 1954 and one to Plath's German pen-pal Hans Joachim-Neupert from 1949. I gave, throughout the week, updates from the archive which gave some of the information I was learning but not all. Got to save some stuff for the blog for a rainy or snowy day! The general January 2012 archive is the best way to see these posts, that is, if you care to review them!

The following is a list of some of the more -to me- memorable posts from the year, for various reasons, and ones that might possibly have garnered more comments from readers.



I am interested in metrics. I check, daily, stats on the website and blog which includes pages hit, keyword searches that yield hits, etc. In the past I've detailed the most and least popular pages. From December 1, 2011 to November 30, 2012, the top five pages hit on my website "A celebration, this is" were: biography, poetryworks, belljar, proseworks, and prose thumbnails. During that same time period, the top five pages, by time spent on that page, were: Biography, Johnny Panic synopses, The Bell Jar, Publications, and Dissertations about Sylvia Plath.

New books in 2012 by and about Sylvia Plath (and Ted Hughes) included:

  • Poetic Memory by Uta Gosmann
  • How to Write about Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Crowley
  • Critical Insights: The Bell Jar edited by Janet McCann
  • Depression in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar edited by Dedria Bryfonski
  • Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study by Luke Ferretter (Paperback)
  • Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar
  • Ted and I by Gerald Hughes
  • Sylvia Plath: Poems selected by Carol Ann Duffy
  • The Poetic Art of Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study of Themes and Techniques by Raihan Raza
  • With Robert Lowell and his circle : Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others by Kathleen Spivack
  • Analyzing Sylvia Plath by Alice Walsh (fiction)


How many of them did you read? I read most of them and feel that some were more successful than others. The majority of them were reviewed throughout the year on this blog, some positively and some not so much! The Duffy selection of poems published by Faber is the leader in my mind because at least it's a book "authored" by Plath; of Plath's works. Duffy's selection of poems is really interesting, especially when compared to the previous selected poems of Plath, edited by Ted Hughes (there was an additional selected poems edited by the late Diane Middlebrook which was published by Knopf in 1998). A comparison and critique of these three selections would be fascinating in how the selectors exhibit the evolution of Plath's poetics: their vision of Plath, in some way. Back to the books of 2012...Of the critiques, though only just a chapter long, Uta Gosmann's is the most original.

Books to look forward to in 2013, so far, are:

  • The Bell Jar 50th Anniversary Edition (Faber) by Sylvia Plath
  • Claiming Sylvia Plath: The Poet as Exemplary Figure by Marianne Egeland
  • The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg (just kidding)
  • American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson
  • Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson
  • Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder
  • How to Analyze the Works of Sylvia Plath by Victoria Peterson-Hilleque
  • Plath Profiles 6
  • The Journals of Sylvia Plath (probably a re-issue): 5 September 2013
  • Sylvia Plath Drawings by Frieda Hughes: 5 September 2013


No doubt 2013 is all about Plath's life, even though the sensationalism of the 50th anniversary of her death will be more headline-making. It is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar. Where do you rank The Bell Jar. Is it as important as her poetry? Are they even comparable? This might more apply to longer-standing Plath scholars, but how different is Plath's literary reputation now than it was in the mid-1970s? Is she better off? Worse off? These are questions I'm sure we'd all like to take a stab at answering. If you feel like exploring this, please consider this blog as a place to voice your opinions.

Thank you all for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for following and tweeting and retweeting. Happy holidays and Happy New Year. Be well.

Unless something significant occurs between now and 1 January I am taking a few days off from the blog. But, I will check comments. Was there any post that was your favorite throughout the year? If so, leave a comment and let me know why. It might help me to continue to build content next year.

Remember that when you are on the internet, you should also read The Plath Diaries (and follow her on Twitter) and A Piece of Plathery.

11 comments :

Kristina Zimbakova said...

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg is the ONLY one I look forward to, I am afraid.So you had better live up to the expectations.

Happy New Year!

P.H.Davies said...

Great blog post Peter and a nice round-up of the year. I have to say, when I started to read the following my heart jumped into my throat until I read the brackets: "The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg (just kidding)". You kidder!!!!

Look forward to 2013 and your tireless work and effort in keeping Plath's online presence alive when her Estate continue to do nothing about it!

P.H.Davies

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you both for your comments. I couldn't resist having a little fun at the expense of this blogs fine readers!

Wouldn't it be a hoot if such a book were published?

pks

Anonymous said...

Thank u Peter for this recap, yes this year has been full and rich of events (all of them sadly lived by me virtually through-and thanks to-your blog posts+daily tweets (im not on twitter but i read yours not to miss anything). I came here into your blog this evening to again thank u for everything and to wish u a happy christmas and a great start in 2013 (see?we skipped the mayan apocalypse! ;-) ) I wish u all the best and look forward a more rich plathian year ahead and many more thrills along this amazing plathian "journey" with you and your work.
Thank u, happy xmas holidays. Enjoy them and see u in 2013!

Alessandra
Florence-Italy

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, before logging off i d like to "give" u this link i happened to find yesterday by chance while surfing, but 100% u already seen it,i imagine, and was wondering "who knows what Peter thinks about that"...i find Mr.Trevor Thomas sometimes being a bit too elated,too fanatic. Or just told simply how things really were.(are u also one like me to believe in the story of the bongos party or again was just a bit too much exaggerated..?) Who knows.. Everybody of us would liked to know and to have been there as well..to see what really happened,and if there were killers by hand,or killers by hipnotizing and push to the suicide or was just suicide by desperation or just an accident/a cry for help aka a not-wanted suicide..all of us has wanted to be there once"that"night to see what really happened..i correct myself! To not let it happen and to save her soul.
Link mentioned: http://www.snarke.com/2009/04/trevor-thomas.html?m=1 sometimes i tell myself only time will tell..and sometimes "ghosts" from outthere speak. And im also hoping in near future findings and also trepidantly waiting for 2023..the trunk..also will tell (?)

again, merry Christmas.
Alessandra

Anonymous said...

Oh and! And trepidantly also waiting and looking forward to read The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg. But.. who's on earth is this Steinberg??! Never heard of ;-) ;-) ;-)

ok ok off i go :-)
kisses from rainy Florence
..have i said happy Christmas? :-)

Peter K Steinberg said...

Alessandra: Thank you for your comments and well-wishes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too. As a matter of practice I try not to imagine the situation of my being present in February 1963. As for Thomas' claims, it is really difficult to determine what happened, what was said, etc. We know the genre of memoir is ugly and problematic. I try to give these people the benefit of the doubt, but admit I do also read them with caution.

Be well. Thank you for your comments!

pks

Anonymous said...

Have a great Christmas, Peter! I'm looking forward to the lost journals in the new year ;-)

~VC

Peter K Steinberg said...

~VC - Merry Christmas to you! I think a lot of people are looking forward to that book!

pks

The Plath Diaries said...

Thanks for the shout out Peter! ;)

And thank you, as always for your tireless work on Sylvia Plath Info. It is such a thriving hub of activity - my #1 website!

Best wishes for 2013!

Maeve

Rehan said...

You should've seen my face when I read The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg, my first instinctive thoughts were "He never said a word about this!" The 'How To ..' books on Plath would come in use in constructive criticism on Plath, there are similar books on other great poets. I look forward to American Isis, Mad Girl's Love Song, Plath Profiles 6 and Frieda's book which I will buy since I went along to see (not sure if it's a re-issue of the exhibition catalogue).

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