Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Turns 50 (again)


On 14 April 1971, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was published in the US. The fiftieth anniversary of that publication just occurred, quietly, last month. The novel's first fiftieth anniversary in 2013 was a very big deal as it was also the fiftieth of Plath's death and articles were published left and right to commemorate the writer and her works. In his Annotated Bibliography of Sylvia Plath, Stephen Tabor reports that Publisher's Weekly initially listed The Bell Jar was slated to be published on 7 April. Once it appeared it was a success becoming a best seller which kept Harper & Row's printers busy. Tabor reports "two reprints in April 1971, two more in May, and further printings in July, August, and September 1971" (17).


The American edition includes a "biographical note" by Lois Ames which published some of Plath's drawings, her "Mlle's Last Word on College, '53", and her poem "Mad Girl's Love Song". (Read the curious history of that poem here.) 

Plath's "Last Word" was composed on or around 5 June 1953 when she was in her first days of being the Guest Managing Editor of Mademoiselle. It begins "We're stargazers this season, bewitched by an atmosphere of evening blue." It accompanied the photograph of the Guest Editors positioned in the shape of a star, Plath at the top, holding hands, in Central Park, which was taken on 3 June 1953.

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All links accessed 16 May 2021.

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