22 July 2013

Harper Publishes 50th Anniversary edition of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

Like Sylvia Plath's "Mushrooms," HarperCollins "discretely, / very quietly" published their own 50th anniversary edition of The Bell Jar in June (the 11th, to be exact). Even though it is the 42nd year The Bell Jar has been available in this country AND they used the same text as their 25th anniversary edition, first published in 1996. But, who (other than me and maybe Elena Rebollo Cortés) is paying attention, really?

You can buy this edition via Amazon and possibly, if there is such a thing anymore, at a real bookstore.

Following the interesting guest post by Ms Cortés  and taking into consideration the stink that arose out of Faber's cover of their 50th anniversary edition in January...how do you take this one by HarperCollins? It is certainly far more conservative... Regarding the stink from earlier this year, here is a sample article and here is Faber's response.

This 50th anniversary Harper edition cover does not call attention to itself. In fact, the front and back cover are both devoid of critical praise either by reviewers or prominent people: we are given the essential information: title, author, genre and special edition notice on the front and a quote from Chapter 1 on the back.

In the past, the cover has featured a variety of quotes from Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review, etc. or some such acclaim as "the bestselling novel by the author of Ariel"... I am curious, rhetorically, to know when the book was planned for publication? How much the furore (there is that word again) over the Faber edition in January and February may have lead to this particular cover? And, as well, why there has been a relative lack of promotion (there was this on 16 May)? In this Harper Academic blog post from earlier in the year, there is mention of their forthcoming publication of Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder, but nothing on a new edition of Plath's novel...

If you are interested in the covers of The Bell Jar, why not jump over to my website and click through them?

All links accessed on 18 July 2013.


P.H.Davies said...

Wow - I love the cover. Very nice!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi there. Thank you for your comment. I agree it's a very nice cover.


Nick Smart said...

Hi Peter. I find it very interesting that HarperCollins have opted for such a cover. Like you, I have to wonder about the extent to which the design was influenced by the reaction to Faber's so-called 'chick-lit' cover. I wonder if the packaging of Plath's work is at something of a crossroads now. Do publishers repackage it in such a way as to make it seem current - with bright attractive images and quotations & testimonials from current authors, or do they present it as 'classic' literature, with understated designs and the unspoken message that the quality of such literature is a given and needs no extra 'push' from the glowing tributes or recommendations from others? Interesting that there may be a transatlantic divide on this this.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Nick: Great comment, thank you. My feeling is that the reputation of the novel and of Plath should allow for it, like Ariel to stand on its own shoulders. Making the HarperCollins cover a little more...appropriate (?)... for such an anniversary edition. It's classic and current, both. Understated. And there is to me some connection between this Harper's cover and imagery in the book: that of the purple cartwheel dress Esther's mother wears twice (see Chapter 14). The black and purple cover might also match the "aching boss" over Esther's left eye. The cover also calls to mind, in colors, some of that original Heinemann edition with is all purple-black-gray's. A true nod to its original issue (text edits notwithstanding).

Faber's cover attempts to possibly make the novel seem current (by going, at the same time, a bit retro) but it veered way off base - way away from allowing the novel to rest on its laurels as a so-called classic.

Tracy Brain as you probably know discusses the packaging of Plath in her brilliant 2001 book The Other Sylvia Plath.


BridgetAnna said...

I agree with P.H. Davies---love the cover! As you say, Peter, it's very conservative. I like that it only provides the reader and general public with the necessities--title, author, publisher--and nothing else to taint the reader's perception of the book (although you'd be hard-pressed, perhaps, to find a reader who is not familiar with Plath and her death, anyway). Good job, to whomever designed the cover!

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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 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.
  • 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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • 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)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (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. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • 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. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • 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. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.