Presentation on theme: "“The blood jet is poetry / there is no stopping it.”"— Presentation transcript:
1 1932-1963 “The blood jet is poetry / there is no stopping it.” Sylvia Plath“The blood jet is poetry / there is no stopping it.”
2 A brief biography: childhood Born in Boston on October 27, 1932, to Aurelia Schober and Otto PlathHer father was German-Polish; uni professor and bee-keeperA precocious child- knew insect names in Latin!Her mother introduced her to poetry which she lovedIdolised her father and longed to please himIn 1930s he developed diabetes, but refused treatment. Gangrene of leg led to amputation.In 1940, when Sylvia was 8, her father died and she published her first poem.After discovering poetry, Sylvia said I “had fallen into a new way of being happy.”
3 Sylvia Plath as a young woman “I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. I am afraid of getting older. I am afraid of getting married…I want, I think, to be omniscient…I think I would like to call myself the girl who wanted to be God Never, never, will I reach the perfection I long for with all my soul ” (diary, age 17)At school she was a top student, excelling in English1950 received a scholarship to Smith College1953 won a competition to guest-edit Mademoiselle magazine in New York.Suffered mental & emotional exhaustionIs rejected for a Harvard writing course
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.August 24, 1953-she attempts suicide: “…she crawled into a dark, dirty space underneath her mother’s house, where she swallowed pills…”She writes about these experiences in her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell JarAlso in 1953, Sylvia received bipolar electro-convulsive shock treatmentsJunior 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 Sylvia goes to England1954 Plath went to Harvard summer school, graduates summa cum laude in 1955Wins a Fulbright Scholarship to England
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 1956 She met Ted Hughes, a poet, at a Cambridge University party According to her journal, at this meeting he kissed her and she bit him on the cheek, drawing blood.It was an intense courtship and they were married within months.
9 Motherhood & WritingAfter a 2 year teaching stint in America the couple decided to commit to writing full-time and return to EnglandIn 1960 Plath had her first child, Frieda, and published her first book of poetry, ‘The Colossus’.In 1962, following a traumatic appendix operation and the birth of their son Nicholas, Plath's writing became more frantic.
10 Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes 1962 – the beginning of the endJune: 2nd suicide attempt – driving car off the roadJuly: Discovers Ted’s affair with Assia Weevill.Sept: They separateOct: She writes 26 poems in one monthDec: She takes her 2 children and moves into a maisonette in LondonShe prepares Ariel, a collection of 41 poemsSylvia & Ted’s relationship was passionate and tumultuousShe was attracted to his physical power, his way with animals esp owls, his reputation as a poet, and appreciated his encouragement of her poetryShe feared losing him
11 The end: 1963The Bell Jar is published under a pseudonym and receives good reviewsShe is depressed, isolated and mentally unstableFebruary 1963, in one of the coldest winters in English history, she succeeded in taking her life
12 Plath Dies Sylvia committed suicide on February 11th 1963 She stuck her head in the oven, but didn’t forget to leave cookies and milk on the kitchen table for her childrenIt was questioned whether or not her suicide was intentional or just a cry for attention because a nanny and a friend of the family were fixed to arrive at the Plath residence early that morning
13 1965: Ariel was published.1982 she is posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
14 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
15 How do we define Confessional Poetry? The 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)
16 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.