01 March 2016

Sylvia Plath and Smith College's Campus Cat

The Campus Cat,
Commencement 1952
In the spring of 1952, Sylvia Plath was a very active young woman at Smith College. Completing her sophomore year, Plath was doing well academically, but also socially and in terms of extracurricular activities. She was involved with Press Board, covering campus events as well as sending out news stories to local papers. But she was also involved with a small publication called the The Campus Cat.

The Campus Cat was a publication created by Smith students in 1918. Its contents provided information to the campus about going-ons, events, activities, and poked fun at the rituals, trials, and stresses of academia and life on the Smith campus.

Contributions to the periodical were anonymous, though the contributors were listed in the front of the magazine. In her 1952 calendar, held by the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington, Plath has three reminders on 3, 7, and 14 May 1952. On the 3rd she worked on writing her piece; on the 7th there was a meeting; and on the 14th there was a meeting and her "story" was due. This was new to me, as it does not appear in any bibliography: perhaps as the publication was anonymous. Plath's work on The Campus Cat is mentioned briefly in Carl Rollyson's 2013 biography American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath.

Table of Contents of The Campus Cat
On a trip to Smith College on 31 March 2015, I looked at the Campus Cat records and was very happy to find Plath listed as a contributor to the "Commencement 1952" issue of the periodical. Below is a list of the articles and features in the issue. Many of the titles appear in the table of contents one way, and under a different name on the page on which they appear. Those alternate titles are in square brackets.

"The Cat's Eye"; "The Core of the Matter" ["On the relative importance of the Apple in History or The Core of the Matter"];
"Wednesday Song" ["Il Wednesdoroso"];
"Bermuda" ["Bermuda Buggy Ride"];
"Dearie" ["Dearie; do you remember when "];
"On My Malocclusion";
"Fully two, you're famous" ["Fifty-two you're famous"];
"The Bowlegged Dinosaur"; and
"The Cliché Expert" ["The Cliche Export: Paradise Lost Revisited"].

"The Cat's Eye" section featured short pieces with separate titles:

"Spring Comes to Paradise Road";
"On Seeing One's Self in a Mirror";
"T.V. or Not T.V.";
"Ve-ry Funny!";
"The Athletes";
"Be Mine -- For Now";
"Thought for the Day";
"Why -- Hello!";
"And Hello To You, Too!";
"Reflection on Ivy Day"; and
"'She's Got It By Going 'BRRR' In Front of Bergdorf's', Peter Arno".

Blurry/fuzzy list of Contributors,
Plath among them
But as stated above the pieces were printed without attribution so pinning down exactly which article was authored by Plath might difficult, if not impossible, in the absence of any typescript or other document confirming authorship. The full list of authors in this issue were: Paula Granger, Ag Hawkins, Diana Yates, Ga Snikwah, Paula Shiff, Marj Wedin, Sylvia Plath, Betty Nore, Sue Schuster, and J. Gregg.

The Smith College archives holds material on the Campus Cat which includes most issues of the magazine, press releases and other Campus Cat related publications.

All links accessed 3 April 2015 and 26 February 2016.

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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. 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.