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-Allusions of marriage and motherhood.  Plath spends a great deal of time developing her imagery within this piece. It is so well done that readers can.

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Presentation on theme: "-Allusions of marriage and motherhood.  Plath spends a great deal of time developing her imagery within this piece. It is so well done that readers can."— Presentation transcript:

1 -Allusions of marriage and motherhood

2  Plath spends a great deal of time developing her imagery within this piece. It is so well done that readers can almost literally experience nature as she did. According to some, “The excitement of nature is hard to miss”.  In any analysis of this work, nature images should be a focus.

3  The whole of Sylvia Plath’s life up to 1959 was one of academic distinction and ambition, she won prizes, gained A grades, conquered one goal after another, but after the year’s successful but demanding teaching at Smith, with two degrees behind her and thoughts of graduate work to the fore of her mind she relinquished academic life in [favor] of full-time writing.  The decision was obviously made under Ted Hughes’s influence–he had given up the academic world much earlier– and it was an immensely courageous step for her to take, involving as it did the rejection of one of her most deep- seated values–any one reading her Letters Home of the mid- fifties cannot help but be impressed by her sheer tenacity and desire for success.

4  Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath had decided that they would settle permanently in Europe, so she was also turning her back on her family and cultural heritage as well as on the obvious career towards which all her efforts were previously directed.  At this point in the autumn of 1959, she was pregnant for the first time and ‘The Manor Garden’ which like ‘Poem for a Birthday’ was written at Yaddo indicates some of the ambivalence of fear and excitement which this generated in her; its final, very satisfying image is a brilliant rendering of this ambivalence: The small birds converge, converge With their gifts to a difficult borning.

5  The period at Yaddo with its time for concentration and writing is a further factor: to be invited to Yaddo represented society’s recognition of artistic merit and for Sylvia Plath such recognition always seems to have been more important than it is to Ted Hughes.  Writing to her mother on 16 October 1962 she described her Ariel poems with tragic irony as: ‘the best poems of my life: they will make my name.’  The notion of success was one which she could not relinquish easily as a scholar, a mother, a wife or a poet. C/O: %E2%80%9Cthe-self-in-the-world-the-social-context-of-sylvia- plath%E2%80%99s-late-poems%E2%80%9D-in-women%E2%80%99s- studies/ %E2%80%9Cthe-self-in-the-world-the-social-context-of-sylvia- plath%E2%80%99s-late-poems%E2%80%9D-in-women%E2%80%99s- studies/

6  "The Manor Garden," the initial poem in The Colossus, was written in the fall of 1959.  It begins by creating an apprehensive, foreboding tone that dominates the poem: ▪ "The fountains are dry and the roses over. / Incense of death. Your day approaches." Here are death in the midst of birth; the external, natural world at odds with the internal, human one.  Only momentarily does a correspondence, a harmony, occur between the natural and the maternal: ▪ "The pears fatten like little buddhas" as the fetus evolves and the womb fills.  But negative images (wolves and hard stars, a spider and worms) outweigh the positive ones (pears, fishes, a bee's wing, heather).  The poem's prophecy is for "a difficult borning. C/O:

7  According to Margaret Dickie: "The Colossus" is Plath's admission of defeat and analysis of her own impotence.... Plath transfers elements from the myths and rituals of the dying god to the colossus figure and elaborates them with references to Greek tragedy to make her poem a complicated, often enigmatic, study of her own failure....  The fact that the statue is addressed at one point as "father" has caused most critics to link this poem with Plath's own father and her poetic treatment of him; but nothing in this poem demands that single interpretation.

8  Perhaps the colossus is not the actual father but the creative father, a suggestion reinforced by the fact that the spirit of the Ouija board from which Plath and Hughes received hints of subjects for poems claimed that his family god, Kolossus, gave him most of his information. ▪ The colossus, then, may be Plath's private god of poetry, the muse which she would have to make masculine in order to worship and marry.

9  The concentration of mouth imagery to describe the colossus also points to his identification as a speaker or poet.  The persona has labored thirty years "To dredge the silt from your throat," although, she admits, "I am none the wiser." She suggests, "Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle, / Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other." In the end, she says, "The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue."

10 ▪ No messages came from the throat, the mouthpiece, the tongue of this figure; this god is silent, yet the speaker feels bound to serve him. The sense of servitude and of the impossible task of such service reflects the creative exhaustion Plath felt during this period.  Her statement at the end that "My hours are married to shadow" may be an admission that she is married, in fact, to darkness and creative silence, rather than to the god of poetry who could fertilize her.

11  Her fears also center on the catastrophe that produced the crumbling of the idol: "It would take more than a lightning-stroke/ To create such a ruin." This admission, enigmatic if the statue is her father or a dying god, recalls Plath's early poetic concerns about creative paralysis and the sense of a collapsing order. ▪ c/o: h/colossus.htm h/colossus.htm

12  'The Colossus' has the direct, conversational tone of the later poems and it is written in the five-line verse which Sylvia Plath was to use most consistently in Ariel, in fourteen out of the forty poems, although in this first volume only six poems have five-lined verses. ▪ from Sylvia Plath: Her Life and Work. Copyright © 1973 by Eileen M. Aird

13  Even in a poem like "The Colossus," in which the poet is exploring a very private, very personal experience, her relationship with her dead father whom she both adores and hates because he died, because he is dead and still influences her life, she needs at this point in her career to generalize even mythicize the experience to control it and therefore to write about it.  (From later poems on the theme, such as "Daddy," we get a clearer picture of the devastating strength of, her emotions. But in this poem they are modulated by their symbolic form.) ▪ from Naked and Fiery Forms: Modern American Poetry by Women, a New Tradition. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976. Copyright © 1976.

14  Steven Gould Axelrod reads ‘The Colossus’ as an allegory of patriarchal domination of female creativity where the metaphors of destruction and incomprehension exemplified by the incoherent animal voices of stanza one lament the oppressed, silenced voice of the woman poet.  Crucially, though, Axelrod finds that the poem demonstrates the undermining of male dominance. While seeming to ‘inscribe female defeat’, it ‘encodes the survival of female difference and the victory of her voice’ (Wound, pp. 49–50).

15  Certainly the poem traces the determined assertion of the female voice in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles; it opens with ‘I’, and the ‘I’ insists on its presence by echoing in the ‘i’ rhymes throughout.  Every stanza contains at least one pair of such rhymes (I/entirely, I/wiser in stanzas one and two), and in the middle section of the poem where we see the speaker in the most intense conflict with the statue the ‘I’ cries frantically or stubbornly for attention – lysol/I/like/white/tumuli/eyes and sky/Oresteia/Cypress/Acanthine – thus resisting effacement by the monolithic statue and the culture it represents.

16  Annas, Pamela J. ’Poem for a Birthday’ to ‘Three Women’: Development in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath  Critic: Eileen Aird. Source: Critical Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 4, 1979, pp. 63-72. Reproduced by permission Criticism about: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), also known as: Victoria Lucas, Mrs. Ted Hughes ‘Poem for a Birthday’ to ‘Three Women’: Development in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath  Dobbs, Jeannine. ‘Viciousness in the Kitchen’: Sylvia Plath's Domestic Poetry  Critic: Jeannine DobbsSource: Modern Language Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1977, pp. 11-25. Reproduced by permissionCriticism about: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), also known as: Victoria Lucas, Mrs. Ted Hughes  Ford, Karen and Nelson, Cary. Sylvia Plath [1932-1963]. Modern American Poetry. 23 August 2012. Web.

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