Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study

Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study

Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study

Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study

Synopsis

This is the first study devoted to Sylvia Plath's fiction. Plath wrote fiction throughout her life, in a wide variety of genres, including women's magazine romances, New Yorker stories, comedy, social criticism, autobiography, teenage fiction and science fiction. She wrote novels before and after The Bell Jar. Discussing all these novels and stories, and based on research in the three major archives of her work, this book is the complete study of Plath's fiction. The author analyses her influences as a fiction writer, the relationships between her poetry and fiction, the political views she expresses in her fiction, and devotes two chapters to the central concern of her novels and stories, the roles of women in contemporary society.

Excerpt

There are two major ways of thinking about Sylvia Plath’s work in contemporary criticism. One way, dominant since the publication of Ariel, is to think of this work as a progression towards the greatest poetry of Plath’s career, the poems of 1962 and 1963. Plath herself said that these poems ‘will make my name’ (LH 468), and critics continue to think of her work, in Nancy Hargrove’s words, as a ‘journey toward Ariel’. Tim Kendall writes of her 1954–55 poems, ‘Were they not produced by the author of Ariel, the poems would hardly merit attention’. In the introduction to their collection of Plath’s visual art, Eye Rhymes, Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley describe the contributors’ interest in Plath’s early work as ‘an attempt to answer the question, How did Plath arrive at Ariel?’ During the last decade or so, another way of thinking about Plath’s work has also begun to emerge, which can best described, in the title of Tracy Brain’s study, as an investigation of ‘the other Sylvia Plath’. This kind of approach is exemplified in studies like those of Al Strangeways on Plath’s intellectual work, of Robin Peel on her politics, of the contributors to Eye Rhymes on her visual art and of the contributors to Anita Helle’s collection The Unraveling Archive on Plath’s unpublished materials, as well as Brain’s work on her environmentalism, national identity and literary influences. These studies do not suggest that Ariel is not Plath finest work. Rather, they are interested in her large and diverse body of work as a whole, and focus their attention on less frequently discussed texts within this body of work, in order to build up a complete picture of the kind of thinker and writer that Plath was.

This is the approach I take in this book. Whilst Ariel is Plath’s single greatest achievement, in my view, it is the achievement of a woman who wrote a great number of works in a great number of genres, indeed whose creativity was not limited to the written word, but who sketched, painted, made collages, decorated her furniture, indeed simply could not stop creating in whatever medium was to hand. Plath’s large and . . .

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