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Sylvia Plath 1932-1963 “The blood jet is poetry / there is no stopping it.”

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Presentation on theme: "Sylvia Plath 1932-1963 “The blood jet is poetry / there is no stopping it.”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sylvia Plath 1932-1963 “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 Plath Her father was German-Polish; uni professor and bee-keeper A precocious child- knew insect names in Latin! Her mother introduced her to poetry which she loved Idolised her father and longed to please him In 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 At school she was a top student, excelling in English 1950 received a scholarship to Smith College 1953 won a competition to guest-edit Mademoiselle magazine in New York. Suffered mental & emotional exhaustion Is rejected for a Harvard writing course “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)

4 Sylvia’s Young Life Attended Smith College (’50-’55) Fall of 1952: shows physical signs of depression Worked 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 Jar Also in 1953, Sylvia received bipolar electro-convulsive shock treatments

5 Sylvia goes to England 1954 Plath went to Harvard summer school, graduates summa cum laude in 1955 Wins a Fulbright Scholarship to England

6 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 & Writing After a 2 year teaching stint in America the couple decided to commit to writing full-time and return to England In 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 Sylvia & Ted’s relationship was passionate and tumultuous She was attracted to his physical power, his way with animals esp owls, his reputation as a poet, and appreciated his encouragement of her poetry She feared losing him 1962 – the beginning of the end June: 2 nd suicide attempt – driving car off the road July: Discovers Ted’s affair with Assia Weevill. Sept: They separate Oct: She writes 26 poems in one month Dec: She takes her 2 children and moves into a maisonette in London She prepares Ariel, a collection of 41 poems

11 The end: 1963 The Bell Jar is published under a pseudonym and receives good reviews She is depressed, isolated and mentally unstable February 1963, in one of the coldest winters in English history, she succeeded in taking her life

12 Plath Dies Sylvia committed suicide on February 11 th 1963 She stuck her head in the oven, but didn’t forget to leave cookies and milk on the kitchen table for her children It 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- Modernists Emerged 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 poetry Poems are created to be read and listened to aloud (resists footnotes, dictionary, visual aspects on a page) Different uses of register: formal, colloquial, etc.


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