10 December 2015

Plath, Otto Plath

The following is a post first started between June and December 2012, revisited briefly in June 2014, and then forgotten about as I was working full time on the letters of Sylvia Plath project. I felt it was important to work on the blog some more this fall with the intention of posting it on 5 November, which was the 75th anniversary of the death of Otto Plath. But then other things got in the way...

Recently, though, I had a change of heart about the bulk of this post. Much of what I wanted to say I learned years ago but will refrain from posting now as I believe that Heather Clark, in her forthcoming biography of Sylvia Plath, will discuss at beautiful and thorough length the history and biography of Otto Plath.

However, what I do still want to relate is interesting information I obtained Warren's Plath's daughter Susan in June 2014 concerning something Paul Alexander wrote as fact in his biography of Sylvia Plath, Rough Magic. Alexander writes, "On April 13, 1885, in the village of Grabow, Germany, he a born Otto Emil Platt" (Da Capo Press edition, 2003: 15). This is patently not true. Susan told me that when she asked Alexander about this several years ago he admitted that he simply made it up. (And makes me wonder what else he made up in his book! Rough Magic, indeed ) So, if you ever happen to read anywhere that Otto Plath was born Platt, please keep in mind this valuable information provided by the PLATH family.

4 comments :

Hélène said...

I've never read rough magic because it seemed to take sides like some other bios did. I can't believe biographers just make things up to fill gaps?! Is this a common occurence in Plath biography? Mention of a new one piques my curiosity however.

suki said...

I read Rough Magic. I've read all the biographies. Biography has to take a side. It has to posit a stance , although in the case of the Plath biography , it seems that there are lots of things that don't accord with the Estate and there are sides, rather than opinions. I hadn't realised though that Alexander admitted to making things up. There are a few other 'facts' which weren't in the other books.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hand-posting this from Right Mind Matters because I accidentally lost the original post:

It is disturbing to read that Alexander made up the one fact; as you say, Peter it could mean others were made up too. I did like that "fact" though, since it corresponded with my married last name, Carole Brooks Platt. These Platts originally came from Ware, England.

Anna said...

I really think it's horrible to acually know (as opposed to suspect) that biographers make things up and the mere fact that they actually do, is really despicable! I have read Rough Magic many years ago and I kind of liked it back then (before I knew about all that Estate drama etc.), because I really liked the extensive chapters on Otto and Aurelia's biographies. And now, even those are ruined, because I cannot trust Alexander anymore. :(

However, I wonder now what Otto's last name actually was, since Platt really would have made sense taking his German descent into consideration and Plath is definitely not a German or a Polnish name. Did Susan say anything about that?

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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." 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.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • 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.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (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. 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. 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "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. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

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