09 November 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: The Rosenstein Tapes

A few weeks back, Gail Crowther and I discussed a bit the Rosenstein audio tapes which have been digitized by Emory and are available to listen to from the comfort of your home or office. It was mentioned, as well, in my talk with Heather Clark and in this blog post

All one needs to do is write to the Rose Library, sign a waiver, and you will receive a login to access the materials in The Keep. The tapes are really interesting but must be listened to with the volume on high, but beware that occasional shouts and laughter and other noises (phones, babies, toddlers, airplanes, cars, motorcycles, sirens, matches being struck) frequently appear and thus you could blow out your eardrums. Please note there is Ted Hughes material in this as well. And, bonus material is digitized home video from Gerald Hughes' Christmas 1964 visit to England. There are two: one is centered in London and features, very briefly, Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill. Another one is from North Tawton, Yorkshire, and Ireland and features many Court Green, Hughes family members, The Beacon, and more. Elizabeth Sigmund (then Compton) appears twice. As well as Plath's cats Tiger-Pieker and Skunky-Bunks. 

Upon listening to nearly all the tapes now, it is evident that the finding aid to the collection is wanting. As critical as that sounds, the finding is still very useful and it takes Plath specialists, sometimes, to really sort things out. Especially since it is clear the tape labels by Rosenstein are, well, fairly inaccurate. The following is a list of actual interviewees. It is organized by Emory's ID number for the audio recording. I have passed this along to them so hopefully the finding aid will be updated too. What is misleading is that though there are two tapes, for example, of Winifred Davies and one with Al Alvarez, there is no indication under their names (as of today) that there is any digital content for them. So please read the finding aid very carefully. I have been listening to the tapes in alphabetical order, but part of me wishes I had listened to them in chronological order. And frustratingly, most of the interview tapes are showing as "undated"; yet Rosenstein's typed notes are dated. The staff really should work with the paper part of the collection to enrich the audio part of the collection.  

I recommend strongly supporting the Rose Library if you take advantage of this opportunity to get archives fever remotely. Even a small amount of money can help and there are several bucket that are appropriate including Digitization (MARBL Fund for Excellence/Linda Matthews fund) and literary acquisitions (Literary Collections Fund).

OK, so, it might be kind of confusing and I am sorry about that, but below is a list of corrections. 

id v5zq0 & id v6mpw are Dr Ruth Beuscher, or, Barnhouse as is listed in the Finding Aid. Dr. Beuscher further exemplifies how dodgy she was as a psychiatrist by reading her therapy notes to Rosenstein. We know she read the McLean files into a tape (that tape was sent to Frieda Hughes), too.  In the finding aid, v6mpw is listed as "Miss Morton" which I think must be intentionally misleading. 

id v48t8 Nancy Axworthy also briefly features Elizabeth Compton Sigmund (who stopped by). Not sure this is worth adding but just thought I'd mention it.

id v79g6 is the second part of Winifred Davies (it continues v48qv).

id v549v is Norman Bailey Part 2. At 57:54 it ends and a couple of seconds later it begins the interview with Dan Jacobson to the end of the tape, about five minutes. 

Then, confusingly, v54jt continues the Dan Jacobson interview for nearly two minutes... but then switches to the beginning of the Norman Bailey interview. Very peculiar... I don't envy the cataloger who has to explain that in the finding aid! 

idv54jt concludes Dan Jacobson; but at about 1:46 in changes to Norman Bailey.

id v62p7 is Edward Lucie-Smith, not Peter Orr.

"Alda" Macedo is Helder Macedo.

In the finding aid under Roche there is an AV listing that reads "interview recording, part three, undated" but there is no [Digital/digitized copy] notation underneath it. Will that be digitized sometime? It's situated in the finding aid just above Box 3 Folder 14.  (It was determined that this tape was blank the whole way through.)

id v76xp is M. L. Rosenthal.

id v54c4 is Nancy Hunter Steiner (Part 1).

id v54b0 is Nancy Hunter Steiner (Part 2) to 3:57; then Richard Wertz to 38:03; then Lorna and David Secker-Walker to 39:06; then "Rudy" & HR making a test telephone recording to 45:57; and then an English man and woman to end.

idv77r3 is Marcia Brown Stern for the first 29 minutes; the rest of the tape is part of Sally Brody.

id v75v9 is definitely Faye Weldon.

id v78dt is J Melvin Woody to about 19:45 and then switches to a completely-unrelated-to-Plath Group Conversation.

id v7b52 is Carl Zorn.

id v7b4x is Carl Zorn until about 38:17 and then switches to a (probably bootlegged?) recording of Aurelia Schober Plath talking about Letters Home and The Bell Jar with an audience. Rosenstein and another woman listening to the recording and commenting.

Also, in the finding aid under Merwin, the reference number for the Lameyer portion of the tape reads id z52r4 but it should be v5zr4. Or vice versa.

And, under Peter Orr, id v6mq7 should be v6mq1. Or vice versa.

All links accessed 5 and 9 November 2020.

4 comments :

Jenny said...

I listened to (most of) these a few weeks ago and found the Beuscher interviews to be very sad. To think of Plath writing to this woman for help! She seemed quite cold and, dare I say, lacked insight.

I have never been a big Faye Weldon fan, but her summary at the end of her interview of all the people involved in the Plath-Hughes drama was funny. Catty too, of course.

Jacqueline said...

I'm a tad confused as to where on the library page we request access. Is it the Contact Us page or somewhere else? Also, where in the Rosenstein Archive is the digitized Gerald Hughes film? I'm having a difficult time navigating the descriptions. I don't see his name at all. Thank You.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Jacqueline---sorry to have been misleading on the Gerald Hughes stuff. That's in his papers (collection number 854), but once you get access to The Keep, Emory's digital a/v repository, you can search for it. Search for Gerald Hughes and it'll turn up. If you just contact them by email, they'll respond with instructions to access the materials. rose.library@emory.edu Good luck and enjoy! ~pks

Hi Jenny! Yes, agree with you on Dr Beuscher. A questionably moral person. Dislike her so much and have always felt she did far more harm than good to SP. The funny thing about Weldon is that though she'd written and published Down Among the Women (1971) which is about SP, TH, AW, etc. There is no discussion of it at all. And I imagine she was rather pleased at Harriet's ignorance of the novel. ~pks

Jacqueline said...

Thank you for the clarification, Peter. I'm making my way through the archive now. WOW! What a treasure trove! I'm thrilled to hear the voices of people I've read about for years. Gerald Hughes' film made me a tad emotional. There are little Frieda and Nicholas playing in the Court Green yard at Christmas (and in color). There's Edith Hughes waving from a car outside The Beacon in Heptonstall. I'm currently reading Heather Clark's book as well so I'm quite immersed in Plath Land at the moment. Thank you for all you do to keep us informed and up to date.

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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.

Interviews