24 August 2017

Call for Sylvia Plath Help

If you have been visiting the Sylvia Plath Info Blog for any amount of time, you know that 24 August usually features something relating to Plath's first suicide attempt on that day in 1953. There are many posts "tagged" with "First Suicide Attempt". I'd encourage you all to click through these posts to see a history of the work I did on building a full bibliography of the articles that I have located.

The post I had long intended for this year's anniversary was the announcement that I had transcribed all the articles that I had found to date. But I decided to post that on 1 January as I could not see sitting on that for most of the year.

In the past, I have asked for help from readers of this blog to search through their local library's and university's microfilms to see if they can find missing articles. To date, no one has heeded the call. So... I am asking now, again, for some helping in building on the bibliography. 

If you have any interest in what the house at 26 Elmwood Road is like, please do read the section of Chapter 4 "'A house redolent with ghosts...': Plath’s domestic and creative spaces" (pp. 93-99) in my book with Gail Crowther, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath, published earlier this year by Fonthill. (Book Depository).


All links accessed 17 August 2017.

20 August 2017

Review of Vivian R. Pollak's Our Emily Dickinsons

Review of Vivian R. Pollak, Our Emily Dickinsons: American Women Poets and the Intimacies of Difference, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016, pp. 355, $55. ISBN: 987-0-8122-4844-9


Vivian R. Pollak's Our Emily Dickinsons is a rich, intensely researched, and well written exploration of American women poets from Emily Dickinson to Marianne Moore to Sylvia Plath to Elizabeth Bishop. Pollak book takes "roughly one hundred years as its focus, Our Emily Dickinsons describes changing conceptions of Dickinson and the problem for women poets of being cut off from the social experiences which consolidate and affective community, however that community is defined" (8-9). The book also concentrates on other important figures in each of these people's lives such as Helen Hunt Jackson and Mabel Loomis Todd for Dickinson as well as significant family members and/or partners/spouses. These four main subjects share something like an heredity of female poetics.

I enjoyed learning as much about the life of Emily Dickinson and the afterlife of her publishing history as I did in the introduction and first two chapters. The third chapter on Marianne Moore continued Pollak's examination expertly. It would have seemed more logical/chronological to me to put Bishop next rather than the two-chapter Plath intermission as strictly speaking Bishop should have been next up. However, by the close of the book the order of the poets discussed seemed a natural lineage.

Chapter 4, "Moore, Plath, Hughes, and 'The Literary Life'", was first published in American Literary History in 2005. I loved it then, as I do again now, as I felt it probed into an overlooked and thus little understood relationship. Pollak's research was inspiring. And it remains so. Throughout chapter 4, Dickinson is all but absent, which left me wondering why this was included other than act as a to bridge Moore and Plath. However, Pollak explains Dickinson's absence in her conclusion which was admirable. The additional Plath chapter, "Plath's Dickinson: On Not Stopping for Death" appears to be new and written for this volume. Here Pollak "discusses Plath's early imitations of Dickinson and explores the roles of her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, and of her husband Ted Hughes in shaping Plath's literary taste and posthumous reputation" (16). There is some content-overlap between chapters four and five with some quotes and points being repeated, and in general I dislike the use of the familiar "Sylvia", "Ted", "Emily", etc. and I found the end of chapter five, in a section entitled "A Queer Interlude" to be a stretch as a way to connect Plath to Bishop.

Pollak's Our Emily Dickinsons is an original, convincing, and authoritative work on the life and posthumous publications of the mysteriously reclusive and enigmatic Emily Dickinson. Pollak explores reactions and responses to Emily Dickinson by three of the 20th centuries leading women's poets. Pollak's work in and with a variety of archives, as well as her notes and documentation, is exemplary scholarship. There is no other book like it.

All links accessed 12 August 2017.

10 August 2017

The Education of Sylvia Plath, Smith College, 1951-1952

This is the second post in a series on the Education of Sylvia Plath and it reviews the courses she took during the 1951-1952 academic year.

In Sylvia Plath's second year at Smith College, she roomed with Marcia Brown (later Stern), in Room 6 of Haven House. This room was on the middle floor of the house (2nd floor American, 1st floor elsewhere). Plath's room faced the Davis Student Center this year and the room had a bay window, a nice architectural feature.

View from bay window of Room 6, toward Library

View from bay window of Room 6, toward Elm Street
1950s floor plan of Haven House

As with her first year, Plath carried six courses and received 15 credits (Physical Education did not earn her any credit). Using the finding aid to Plath mss II at the Lilly Library, I have added some of the papers that Sylvia Plath submitted for her courses. Her artwork I am unable to attribute at this time, an oversight for which I apologize. Plath's notebooks for Government 11 and Religion 14 are held by the Lilly Library.

Art 210: Development of Principles and Methods of Visual Expression. Studio and individual projects in creative pictorial organization, using various painting and graphic media and techniques. Prerequisite, 13. Students must consult the instructor before enrolling. Nine studio hours of which six must be M T W 10-12. Mr Cohen. (51)

English 211: Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. M T W 9. Miss Randall and Miss Drew. (71).

English 220a, 220b: Practice in Various Form of Writing. M T W 11, 2. Miss Page. (73)

"The Perfect Set-Up", September 1951;
"The Latvian", 30 October 1951;
"Sonnet: To Eva", before 2 November 1951;
"Sonnet: To Time", before 15 November 1951;
"Somebody and We", 15 November 1951;
"Suburban Nocturne", 15 November 1951;
"Mary Ventura", 14 December 1951;
"All I Can Tell You Is about the Fog", Spring 1952;
"The Estonian", 29 February 1952;
"Though Dynasties Pass", 14 March 1952;
"Sunday at the Mintons", March-April 1952;
"The Dead", 11 April 1952; and
"Marie", 4 May 1952
Government 11: Introduction to Politics. Leading problems, principles, and concepts in political science. For Freshmen and Sophomores only; not open to students who have taken Social Science 192. Two lectures and one recitation. Lee. M T 12. Rec. W 9, 12, 2; Th 11, 12, 3; F 11, 2. Mr Overstreet, Mr Pierce, and members of the Department. (84)

Physical Education 2a, 2b: Dance and Sports. Three periods of one hour each. Required for Sophomores. Each term a choice of sports and dance as listed under the corresponding term for 1a and b. (111)

Religion 14: Introduction to the Study of Religion. Teachings of contemporary Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. Problems presented by scientific thought, nationalism, and industrialized society. Survey of certain important religious ideas. For Freshmen and Sophomores only. Lee. Th 10. Rec. (for Freshmen) Th F 3, F S 10; (for Sophomores) Th F 2, F S 10. Miss Corwin, Mr Christian. (117)

["Religious Beliefs"], circa Fall 1951?;
"Unitarianism: Yesterday and Today", 8 December 1951; and
"Religion As I See It", 3 May 1952
All links accessed 2 August 2017.

03 August 2017

Sylvia Plath Scholar Heather Clark Awarded NEH Grant

Heather Clark, author of The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (OUP, 2011) and The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast, 1962-1972 (OUP, 2006), has been awarded a $50,000 2017-18 "Public Scholar" Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The funds will enable Clark to continue work on her forthcoming, highly-anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath entitled Sylvia Plath: The Light of the Mind (Knopf).

The award says many things but perhaps most important is the NEH's recognition of Sylvia Plath's status as an iconic American writer.

Reports have appeared so far in The Washington Post and The New York Times.

From The Washington Post, "Heather Clark won a public scholars grant to write a definitive critical biography of Sylvia Plath, which Knopf expects to publish in 2019."

Heather Clark, CUNY Research Foundation ($50,400): "The Light of the Mind"

"A biography of American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) that emphasizes her literary development and her important place in American letters."

Congratulations Heather!  You can read the full list of grants here (p. 29)

All links accessed 2 and 3 August 2017.

01 August 2017

The Education of Sylvia Plath, Smith College, 1950-1951

Sylvia Plath's education was impressive. She attended grade schools in Winthrop and Wellesley, Massachusetts before matriculating with the class of 1954 at Smith College in Northampton. I have always wanted a single easy way to see which courses Plath was taking and when so as such I have made a series of blog posts on the subject of "The Education of Sylvia Plath". This is the first part, for her first year at Smith College, 1950-1951. Perhaps in time I can go a little further and do something like this for Plath's junior high and high school if the record is complete enough to reconstruct something meaningful.

Using the Smith College course catalogs both in person and via the Archive.org, I have transcribed the courses from these sources that Plath herself would have read. They give an overview of the subject, but to read her notes and syllabi and papers would require traveling to the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington which holds the greatest number of these materials. Smith College itself may have some syllabi in the College Archives.

During her first year at Smith, Plath resided in the ever-yellow Haven House and made much use of the Neilson Library, pictured here. Under English 11 and History 11, I have added the dated papers Plath wrote for the course based on information from the Plath mss II finding aid held by the Lilly Library. Papers are held, along with Plath's notebook for Art 13, are held by the Lilly Library.

Art: Art 13, Basic Design. From the course catalog: "The visual properties of color, light, volume, space, shape, line, texture through study of simple problems dealing with the nature of these elements, the use of materials and their creative application. For Freshman, Sophomores, and Junior transfer students. M 9; eight studio hours of which four must be T W 2-4, Th F 10-12, 2-4. Director, Mr Jules" (51).

Botany 11: General Botany. From the course catalog: "A study of the life processes and structure of seed plants with emphasis upon their relationship to the needs of man. A survey of representative types of other green and nongreen plants; reproduction, heredity, evolution. Two lectures and two two-hour laboratory periods. Lee. Th F 12. Lab. A, M T 9; Lab. B, M T 1 1 ; Lab. C, M T 2; Lab. D, Th F 9; Lab. E, Th F 2. Miss Kemp, Mr Wright (Director), Miss Donahue" (55).

English: English 11, Freshman English. From the course catalog: "Practice in expository and critical writing in connection with the study of selected literary forms. Members of the Department. Director, Miss Chase; Assistant Director, Miss Williams" (71).
"The Golden Season", 16 October 1950;
"Atmosphere in the Short Story", 6 November 1950;
"Character is Fate", 22 November 1950;
"The Agony of the Will", 18 December 1950
"The Dualism of Thomas Mann", 17 January 1951;
"Modern Tragedy in the Classic Tradition", 26 February 1951;
"The Tragedy of Progress", 19 March 1951;
"The Imagery in Patterns", 18 April 1951; and
"A New Idiom", 9 May 1951
French 16: Introduction to French Literature. From the course catalog: "Introduction to French Literature. Choice of representative texts; literary, historical, and cultural background. Prerequisite, three units in French, 12, or 11d. M T W 9, 10, 11, 12; Th F S 9, 10, 11, 12. Members of the Department. (L)" (76).

Plath had first registered for French 13 which was a course in "Reading, Grammar, and Composition. From the course catalog: "Prerequisite, three units in French, 12, or 11D. M T W 9, 12; TH F S 9, 10, 11. Members of the Department" (76).

History: History 11, General European History. From the course catalog: "A survey of the history of Europe from the decline of the Roman Empire to the present. One lecture and two recitations. Lec. M 2. Rec. T W 10, 11, 12, 2; Th F 9, 10, 11, 12. Members of the Department. Director, Mr von Klemperer" (87). Plath was largely History taught by Mrs. Koffka.
"Darwin, Marx, Wagner", 1951
Physical Education 1a, 1b: Body Mechanics, Dance, and Sports.1 From the course catalog: "Three periods of one hour each. Required for Freshman.

1.A fee is charged for golf, riding, campcraft, and winter sports.

Fall Term. One period, body mechanics; two periods, swimming for those who have not passed the test, for others a choice of the following:

Archery, canoeing, crew, golf, hockey, riding, soccer, swimming, tennis, volleyball.
Individual Gymnastics. Miss Ryder, Miss Eddy.
The Dance, modern and folk. Mrs Myers, Miss Horning.

Winter Term. One period, fundamental movement; two periods, a choice of:

Badminton, basketball, bowling, children's games, fencing, riding, squash, swimming.
Individual Gymnatics [sic.]. Miss Ryder, Miss Jennings, Miss Eddy.
The Dance, continuing the fall course and new sections. Mrs Myers, Miss Horning.

Spring Term. One period, rhythmic work or body mechanics; two periods, beginning swimming for those who have not passed the test, for others a choice of:

Archery, campcraft, canoeing, children's rhythms, crew, golf, lacrosse, riding, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball.
Individual Gymnastics. Miss Ryder, Miss Eddy.
The Dance, continuing the fall and winter courses and new sections. Mrs Myers, Miss Horning" (111).

 All links accessed 19 June 2017 and 31 July 2017.
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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. "'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.

Interviews