04 April 2008

The Bell Jar - Lawsuit

As Julia Stiles is producing currently a new film version of The Bell Jar, I thought immediately of the libel lawsuit that sprung as a result of the first cinematic adaption. Dr. Jane Anderson, a Boston area psychiatrist, sued for defamation of character over the films portrayal of Joan Gilling as a lesbian. Just be careful, Julia...

The current film status is pre-production.

Below are two lists of articles. The first regards the lawsuit and the second is a selection of reviews of the first adaptation of The Bell Jar. Links to articles in appearing in The New York Times are provided for your reading enjoyment. There are some instances where I was unable to obtain complete citation information. I apologise for this...

Blau, Eleanor. "Film's suicide scenes were 'ethical outrage'." The New York Times. January 31, 1987: 21.

Blau, Eleanor. "'Bell Jar' case ends in accord." The New York Times. January 30, 1987: C-13.

Blau, Eleanor. "'Bell Jar' jury told of suffering." The New York Times. January 29, 1987: C-25.

Blau, Eleanor. "Plaintiff denies 'Bell Jar' film events." The New York Times. January 28, 1987:

Blau, Eleanor. "Plaintif testifies in 'Bell Jar' trial." The New York Times. January 27, 1987: C-13.

Bremner, Charles. "Libel suit settled over Plath film." The Times of London. January 31, 1987.

"Closing accounts on Plath's 'Bell Jar'." Newsweek. February 9, 1987: 58.

Davis, Stephen and Michael Graham. "'Bell Jar' suit aims to decide writers' rights and wrongs." The Times of London. January 18, 1987.

Doherty, William F. "'Bell Jar' plaintiff says movie humiliated her." The Boston Globe. January 27, 1987: 17.

Erlanger, Steven. "Plath case kindles debate in England over impact on two literary reputations." The Boston Globe. January 24, 1987: 14.

Kaufman, Irving R. "The creative process and libel." The New York Times. April 5, 1987: 28.

Kiernan, Laura A. "'Bell Jar' suit settled; defamed psychiatrist to get $150,000." The Washington Post. January 30, 1987: C-3.

Kiernan, Laura A. "Pain and outrage emerge in Boston's 'Bell Jar' suit." The Washington Post. January 28, 1987: D-1.

Lacayo, Richard. "Of Whom the Bell Told." Time. February 9, 1987.

"Laureate is sued." The Times of London. January 19, 1987.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Defense in 'Bell Jar' trial makes opening points." The New York Times. January 22, 1987: C-21.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Plath case: A clash of rights." The New York Times. January 15, 1987: C-22.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Ramifications of literary law suits: The 'Bell Jar' and Salinger cases." The New York Times. February 3, 1987: C-17.

Mitgang, Herbert. "Suit based on portrayal in 'Bell Jar' film begins." The New York Times. January 21, 1987: C-19.

Press, Aric with Mark Starr. "From book to film: A novel case of libel." Newsweek. February 2, 1987: 63.

Quill, Ed. "Psychiatrist says movie defamed her." The Boston Globe. January 15, 1987: 25.

Quill, Ed. "'Bell Jar' Plaintiff gets $150,000 settlement." The Boston Globe. January 30, 1987: 1.

Quill, Ed. "Settlement is said near in 'Bell Jar' movie suit." The Boston Globe. January 29, 1987: 23.

Quill, Ed. "Psychiatrist testifies to 'outrage' over movies." The Boston Globe. January 28, 1987: 19.

Quill, Ed. "'Bell Jar' case lawyer says plaintiff had gay encounter." The Boston Globe. January 22, 1987: 76.

Wald, Matthew L. "Psychiatrist files a libel suit over film of Plath's 'Bell Jar'." The New York Times. January 14, 1987: A-1.

Walker, Iain. "Poetic Justics? The Trails of Ted Hughes." The Advertiser. March 7, 1987.

Wen, Patricia. "Freed from 'Bell Jar' psychiatrist says settlement brings the truth to light." The Boston Globe. February 3, 1987: 1.

Film reviews:
Arnold, Gary. "Youthful neurosis retwisted in 'The Bell Jar'." The Washington Post. March 30, 1979: B-2.

Blowen, Michael. "'Bell Jar' is a travesty." The Boston Globe. 1979.

Kroll, Jack. "A poet's crack-up." Newsweek. March 26, 1979: 77.

Martin, Judith. "This 'Bell Jar' Makes Things Look Smaller." The Washington Post. March 30, 1979: 26.

Maslin, Janet. "Film 'The Bell Jar'." The New York Times. March 21, 1979: C17.

Scott, Jay. "Jarring approach to the 'Bell Jar'." The Globe & Mail. May 19, 1979.

Taylor, Clarke. "'Bell Jar': Hollywood interprets a cult poet." The Los Angeles Times. July 16, 1977: 45.


Jon C. Hopwood said...

One of the things commented on the time was that if this woman hadn't brought up her allegation that it was her who the character in the novel was based on, no one would have known it. Irony of ironies. Maybe Ted Hughes was right to be afraid of what he claimed were Plath's portrayals of real people in her second novel, though he was not right to destroy the manuscript.

Peter K Steinberg said...


Thank you for your comment. I couldn't agree more with you about Anderson self-identifying with the character and essentially outing herself.

The portrayal of real people is an identifying aspect of Plath's writing. This is obviously a bigger can of worms to open, but the novel was a literary work, a piece of art, and shouldn't have been destroyed. I think the novel still exists though. Didn't Hughes said it disappeared (was lost or stolen). He claims to have destroyed a Journal, which is nevertheless, also a shame for whatever insight it may have provided to the creative works Plath was making at the time.


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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.
  • 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.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • 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.