13 August 2018

Sylvia Plath: Inside The Bell Jar

Fifty-five years after its first publication, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar has received a serious, respectful, and authoritative consideration in the form of Sylvia Plath: Inside The Bell Jar which features the first video interview by Frieda Hughes on her mother. And my, was she and it insightful, humble, humorous: just spectacular. The on camera reminiscences by Plath's friends: Janet Salter Rosenberg, Elinor Friedman Klein, Betsy Powley Wallingford, Laurie Glaser, Neva Nelson Sachar, Phil McCurdy, Perry Norton, and Melvin Woody were superb. Some of these friends appeared on camera, as well, for the first time ever. They offer authentic, personable, and emotional memories of their friend Sylvia Plath and what life was like in the 1950s and early 1960s. These were connected with commentary by Heather Clark, Karen V. Kukil, and Tristine Skyler.

Inside The Bell Jar was sensitivity produced. It has left me in tears (particularly Phil McCurdy and Betsy Wallingford at the end) both times I have seen it in the last 24 hours. There is very little criticize; however, there is one thing worthy mentioning in case it can be corrected. The excerpts of the letters read in the program were inconsistently identified. The one to Ann Davidow-Goodman was fully dated; the one to Aurelia Schober Plath, incompletely dated; and the letter to Eddie Cohen not dated at all.

Letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman, 18 February 1952

Letter to Aurelia Schober Plath, 13 June 1953

Letter to Eddie Cohen, 28 December 1953
It was nice they showed Neva Sachar's telegram from Mademoiselle, but I wonder why they did not show Plath's?

Telegram from Marybeth Little, Mademoiselle to Neva Nelson, 
6 May 1953

Telegram from Marybeth Little, Mademoiselle to Sylvia Plath,
6 May 1953

Plath's pseudonym, Victoria Lucas, was not mentioned at all; neither was an image of the first edition shown. These could have been mentioned during the segment when the reviews of the novel were discussed. Quite minor quibbles in an otherwise fine production.

The Bell Jarby Victoria Lucas,
Heinemann, 1963

Highest accolades to Yeti Media for the work done for this BBC Two documentary. The director, Teresa Griffiths and her crew of executive producers (Siân Price and Angus McQueen) and producers (Tim Kendall and Clive Flowers), consultant (Heather Clark), and all others deserve our praise for their work. Declan Smith provided archival research and he worked with me and a number of others in obtaining video, photograph and other material in the program. It was an honor to participate behind the scenes and particularly neat to recognize the pieces that either I supplied directly or with which I provided assistance in obtaining and am sincerely thankful to be listed in the credits.

The plaque at Wellesley High School installed  in November 2000
for the 50th anniversary of the class of 1950.
All links accessed 13 August 2018.


Eva Stenskar said...

When and where can those of us in the US see it?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Eva! I do so wish I could answer this but I am not sure. I believe they are going to try to get permission with archives and the like. We'll have to keep our finger's crossed! ~pks

Hélène said...

curse the BBC and its UK restrictions

Anonymous said...

Some people have success in watching the documentary by downloading Hola, which establish a virtual private network, and make it appear as if you are located in England (or any another country). That is how I view it in Germany. FrankM

Unknown said...

Hello. I'm the "Laurie Glaser" in the film. Just for the record, my maiden name was Glazer(not Glaser) and I am a writer in Chicago known as Laurie Levy; my new novel is "The Stendhal Summer"-- which I wish they'd mentioned (!)-- but I thought the film was simply marvelous, and Teresa's direction was magnificent.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you for your comment Laurie -- I've corrected the spelling mistake in the blog post. It was a privilege to view the documentary and to hear your commentary and experiences, much of it astonishing. ~pks

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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.