2 Family Background… Born in Boston, Mass Mother, Aurelia married Otto, 21 years her seniorAurelia-high school teacherOtto-professor of Entomology at Boston University.Brother Warren, born April 27, 1935Aurelia & Otto met at Boston U, she was his student. He was married at the time. Otto’s dissertation: “Bumblebees and Their Ways”. Otto ran a somewhat somber household in which Aurelia worked diligently to care for the children.
3 Functionally Dysfunctional 1940-Otto Plath dies of an embolism following the amputation of his leg. His toe had become gangrenous from undiagnosed diabetes.Aurelia was said to be a controlling mother who sometimes smothered Sylvia.Sylvia and Otto had a husband-wife routine that suggested an Electra relationship.First suicide attempt? Possible drowning attempt? Financial strain after Otto’s death. Sylvia’s maternal grandparents moved in to the Plath home. After her father’s death, Sylvia’s bond grew with her mother. In college, Sylvia’s letters to her mother suggested her need for constant approval.
4 Sylvia’s Young Life Attended Smith College (’50-’55) Fall of 1952: shows physical signs of depressionWorked as a guest editor at Mademoiselle during her junior year in 1953.Also in 1953, Sylvia received bipolar electro-convulsive shock treatmentsAugust 24, 1953-she attempts suicide: “…she crawled into a dark, dirty space underneath her mother’s house, where she swallowed pills…”Junior year/emotional turbulence: many of friends had left school, classes were disappointing (she had to take science), she was disappointed with her “B” in Milton, a troubled relationship w/ Dick Norton (and other affairs), denied a summer writing program at Harvard.
5 More from Junior & Senior Year… Sylvia returned to Smith in February of ‘54 (she took a semester off)June 6, 1955: graduated with honors (summa cum laude) in English and won a Fulbright scholarship to CambridgeBy the time she left for Cambridge, Sylvia’s view on male/female relationships had greatly shifted, but she felt England would provide the tall, handsome husband she wanted.
6 As a young woman, Sylvia was an alluring figure As a young woman, Sylvia was an alluring figure. It’s no surprise that during her studies at Cambridge, she drew the attention of…
7 …Ted Hughes: “With his manly brow, angular jaw and unruly hair, Hughes cut a handsome figure…”
8 The “love affair” begins… Sylvia and Ted--met on February 25, 1956 and married on June 16Daughter Frieda (April 1st, 1960) and son Nicholas (January 17th, 1962)Sylvia and Ted separated in October 1962Hughes’s affair; Sylvia’s severe mood swings paired with frustrations as writer
9 The Movie… In 2003, Gwyneth Paltrow starred as Plath in the film Sylvia, co-starring Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes (that’s right… James Bond).Plath’s daughter Frieda was not pleased with the portrayal of her mother. Sylvia was portrayed as a neurotic, jealous, and vengeful wife.
10 Plath’s literary and poetic achievements… Her collection of poems titled Colossus was published in October 1960Collected Poems won Pulitzer for poetry posthumouslyVERY rare for Pulitzer to be awarded posthumouslyThe Bell Jar-published in1963
11 Ariel (1965)These poems are often called the “October Poems,” written just after her separation from Ted. A new version of Ariel was recently published with the poems organized as Plath wished them to be. “Daddy” “Ariel” “Lady Lazarus” The Bee Poems
12 Sylvia committed suicide on February 11, 1963 Sylvia committed suicide on February 11, She was only 30 years old. Her children were sleeping in the next room.Ironically, Assia Wevill, took her own life (and her daughter’s) in the same fashion as Sylvia.The gravestone that was repeatedly defaced…
13 Reoccurring symbols/themes in Plath’s poetry… Bees: Otto wrote his dissertation on bees titled “Bumblebees and their Ways”Sea: Sylvia spent time with her grandfather exploring the sea; the sea as salvation.The struggle to manage womanhood, motherhood, marriage, and writing.Man’s cruelty, loss and betrayal, dealing with depression.Elements of nature; seasonal changes reflecting mood and emotion; sunrise as a progression of time and change.Shadows: symbolic of the mind, darkness, inner-turmoil
14 How do we define Confessional Poetry? Label was first used by the critic M.L. Rosenthal, who referred to to Robert Lowell as a poet who reveals to his readers aspects of his private life that would conventionally be kept hidden, unless one were confessing to a priest (or in therapy with a psychiatrist)Reaction against impersonality of the High-ModernistsEmerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the works of Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Allen Ginsberg (among others)
15 How do we define Confessional Poetry? Autobiographical manner of addressing personal experiences: depression, relationships, confusion, death, trauma, psychological breakdowns, etc.The “I” transforms into a completely personal, speaking “I”Careful attention and use of prosody--the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetryPoems are created to be read and listened to aloud (resists footnotes, dictionary, visual aspects on a page)Different uses of register: formal, colloquial, etc.
16 Ms. R’s recommended supplemental reading list… Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Linda Wagner-MartinSylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner- MartinWorks ConsultedModern American Poetry. Ed. Cary Nelson. Oxford University Press, 2000Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
17 Mr. Quale’s RemindersComplete one Practice IOC--I will put three downloadable options on MrQuale.com. You must complete at least one.Finish your nonfiction movie reviewMark “Event” “Morning Song” and “Bee Box.”
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