10 December 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Kansas


The Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas holds a portion of the Critical Quarterly Archive (summary of contents). It was purchased in 1968 from Argosy Books in New York and contains: "584 Letters (including 9 retained copies of letters from CQ), Manuscript fair copies of poems, reviews, essays, and proofs." The abstract to the collections says:
Archives (letters received; some texts and proofs): of literary magazine. Submissions of material to Critical Quarterly; friendly personal news; literary gossip; academic life. Some polite notes from famous names. Some material concerning Cox or Dyson rather than the Critical Quarterly.
As you might imagine, they contain Sylvia Plath archival materials... There are ten letters from Plath to the journal's editors A. E. Dyson and C. B. Cox from 1960 to 1961. I learned of the collection first through Linda Wagner-Martin's wonderful Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (1999, 2nd ed. 2003).

I have withheld posting on this Sylvia Plath collection for many years as the ten letters formed an integral part of an essay I selfishly wanted to write on the poetry supplement Plath edited for the CQ in 1961 entitled American Poetry Now. I was able to write the essay, "'What's been happening in a lot of American poetry': Sylvia Plath as editor and reviewer", for the book I co-wrote with Gail Crowther, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (Fonthill), where it appears as Chapter 7. Another reason for not posting this was that the letters were to be printed in The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2.


This is one of those intricate archival stories where pieces are scattered and where sense can only be made once all those pieces are discovered, assembled, and studied. Papers relating to Plath's work on the American Poetry Now pamphlet are spread between at least five repositories: University of Kansas, Indiana University, Smith College, Emory University, and the University of Manchester. It is possible other materials are held elsewhere, too!

The correspondence at the University of Kansas is just part of the story. The letters are dated 16 January 1960; 22 February 1960; 1 January 1960 [1961]; 3 May 1961; 17 June 1961; 25 June 1961; 24 August 1961; 17 October 1961; 14 November 1961; and 12 December 1961. While it is evident that Plath received letters, it does not appear that she kept them (and the journal did not apparently retain carbons).

The initial letters from 1960 deal with publication of Plath's poetry. Namely her verse "Medallion" which was awarded a best poem prize as well as submissions. The eight 1961 letters all relate to American Poetry Now.

If you are interested in the other holdings outside of Kansas, you will find them in the following:

Emory University: Sylvia Plath: Subseries Prose
Indiana University: Plath mss
Smith College: Sylvia Plath Collection, Series XVI: Writings of Others Collected & Edited by SP
University of Manchester: Critical Quarterly Archive

All links accessed 20 April 2017 and 6 December 2018.

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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.

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