07 December 2017

The Education of Sylvia Plath, Smith College, 1954-1955

Sylvia Plath's final year at Smith College was tremendously successful. She lived in Lawrence House "with" Nancy Hunter (later Steiner) in what was then room 4 on the second floor (present day room number 217). Walking into the room from the main door, one is presented with a vestibule like area. On each end is a closet and there are two separate, small rooms for the residents. The windows overlooked a small tree-filled, green lawn and visit is Green Street.

The main door to Plath's room
The closet door
The room
Plath's door
View to the right
View to the left
You can read more about this room in These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath by Gail Crowther and myself. And you can read more about Plath's time at Harvard Summer School and her relationship with Nancy Hunter Steiner in Steiner's A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath (Harper's Magazine Press, 1973; Faber and Faber 1974).

Plath strung Gordon Lameyer along as her main boyfriend, but by the end of the semester she was fully involved with Richard Sassoon, who remained her most significant other for the rest of her undergraduate months. Plath applied for a Fulbright scholarship and other advanced degree programs, and completed her thesis, "The Magic Mirror; A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky's Novels". Plath's two creative writing courses (Short Story Writing and a special studies in poetics) saw her create remarkable number of works.

Plath's working papers for her thesis are held in Plath mss II by the Lilly Library. Her notebooks for Shakespeare and 20th Century American Novel (Modern American Literature) are also held by the Lilly Library. Many more details about aspects of Plath's final year are, of course, now available in The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956.

English 36, Shakespeare: A study of Shakespeare's dramatic development against the background of Elizabethan ideas, social, critical, and theatrical. Not open to students who have taken 37 with which this course alternates. Th F S 12. Esther Cloudman Dunn.

English 347a, Short Story Writing: Though the emphasis in this course will be on fiction, opportunity will be given for other kinds of writing. By permission of the instructor. W Th F 2. Alfred Kazin, first semester.

Some of these stories were created during the term of Kazin's course but may not be a direct result of it:
"Among the Bumblebees";
"Broken Glass";
"Christmas Encounter";
"Coincidentally Yours";
"The Day Mr. Prescott Died";
"Home is Where the Heart Is";
"In the Mountains";
"Marcia Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom";
"The Smoky Blue Piano";
"Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit";
"Tomorrow Begins Today";
"Tongues of Stone"; and
"Two Gods of Alice Denway"(?)

English 417b, 20th Century American Novel: The Twentieth Century American Novel. Th F S 10. Alfred Kazin.
The Spectrum of F. Scott Fitzgerald; A Study of Color Imagery in Tender Is the Night,

English 41b, Poetry, Special Studies: By permission of the Department for senior majors who have had twelve semester hours in English above Grade I. Two or three hours. Alfred Young Fisher

"Ballad Banale", 8 January 1955;
"Item: Stolen, One Suitcase", 8 January 1955;
"Morning in the Hospital Solarium", 8 January 1955;
"New England Winter without Snow", 8 January 1955;
"Harlequin Love Song", 9 January-3 February 1955;
"Danse Macabre", 30 January 1955;
"Rondeau Redouble", 30 January 1955;
"Temper of Time", 1 February 1955;
"Winter Words", 1 February 1955;
"Apparel for April", 2 February 1955;
"Lament", 5 February 1955;
"Complaint", 6 February 1955;
"Elegy", 6 February 1955;
"Notes on Zarathustra's Prologue", 6 February 1955;
"Dream of the Hearse-Driver", 7 February 1955;
"Prologue to Spring", 9 February 1955;
"Epitaph in Three Parts", 11 February 1955;
"April Aubade", 14 February 1955;
"The Princess and the Goblins", 19 February 1955;
"How shall winter" [first line], 27 February 1955;
"Wayfaring at the Whitney", 28 February 1955;
"Ice Age (II), 2 March 1955;
"Moonsong at Morning", 6 March 1955;
"On Looking into the Eyes of a Demon Lover", 6 March 1955;
"Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light", 8 March 1955;
"Apotheosis", 9 March 1955;
"Second Winter", 9 March 1955;
"Song of Eve", 9 March 1955;
"Song for a Thaw", 10 March 1955;
"Million Dollar Month", 12 March 1955;
"Notes to a Neophyte", 12 March 1955;
"On the Futility of a Lexicon", 12 March 1955;
"Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea", 22 March 1955;
"Advice for an Artificer", 12 April 1955;
"Sonnet for a Green-Eyed Sailor", 12 April 1955;
"A Sorcerer Bids Farewell to Seem", 12 April 1955;
"Sonnet to Satan", 17 April 1955;
"Apology to Pan", 18 April 1955;
"Desert Song", 19 April 1955;
"Circus in Three Rings", revised 23 April 1955;

English Unit, Long Paper (thesis) Supervised by George Gibian
"The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky's Novels; submitted 15 January 1955"

English Unit, Review
Taught by Evelyn Page

German 12 Intermediate
Intermediate Course. Prerequisite, two units in German or 11. M T W 11, Th F S 11, two additional hours to be arranged for conversation in place of some preparation. Anita Luria Ascher, Helene Sommerfeld.

In 1989, Plath's thesis was printed in a limited edition (Rhiwargor, Llanwddyn, Powys [Wales]: Embers Handpress). WorldCat lists 28 copies that are available to read in libraries and archives.

See the other posts in the Education of Sylvia Plath series: 1950-1951; 1951-1952; 1952-1953; and 1954.

All links accessed 1 and 6 December 2017.


Hélène said...

I'm currently exactly at this point in the letters... So nice to have photos to go with the text! It also fills a journal gap nicely... I'd love to read her thesis.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Helene -- I'm happy that I posted this at the exact time you were reading those letters! I couldn't agree more that this stuff (letters and even that blog post) fills in the journals gap. You could probably request a photocopy of her thesis from Smith College. Email me peterksteinberg AT hotmail DOT com if you want or need some advice! ~pks

Unknown said...

I would like to read her work of Dostoyevski dual personality in his novels. Is it posted anywhere on net?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Plath's thesis is not posted online, but you could write to Smith College (https://libraries.smith.edu/special-collections/about/mortimer-rare-book-collection) to ask for a photocopy of it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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.