Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath, 1932–63, American poet, b. Boston. Educated at Smith College and Cambridge, Plath published poems even as a child and won many academic and literary awards. Her first volume of poetry, The Colossus (1960), is at once highly disciplined, well crafted, and intensely personal; these qualities are present in all her work. Ariel (1968), considered her finest book of poetry, was written in the last months of her life and published posthumously, as were Crossing the Water (1971) and Winter Trees (1972). Her late poems reveal an objective detachment from life and a growing fascination with death. They are rendered with ruthless art, describing the most extreme reaches of Plath's consciousness and passions. Her one novel, The Bell Jar (1971), originally published in England under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1962, is autobiographical, a fictionalized account of a nervous breakdown she suffered when in college. Plath was married (1956–63) to the British poet Ted Hughes. She committed suicide in London in Feb., 1963. Her brief life, troubled marriage, and fiercely luminous poetry have provided the raw materials for interpretation by a small army of biographers, feminists, memoirists, novelists, playwrights, scholars, and others.


See her collected poems (1981); occasional prose, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1979); journals, ed. by T. Hughes and F. McCullough (1983); The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950–1962 (2000), ed. by K. V. Kulil; biographies by E. Butscher (1979), A. Stevenson (1989), P. Alexander (1991), R. Hayman (1991), J. Rose (1991), L. Wagner-Martin (1987 and 1999, rev. ed. 2003), and C. Rollyson (2013); J. Malcolm, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1994); T. Hughes, Birthday Letters (1998); D. Middlebrook, Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage (2003); J. Becker, Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath: A Memoir (2004); A. Wilson, Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life before Ted (2013); studies by M. Broe (1980), J. Rosenblatt (1982), L. Wagner-Martin, ed. (1988, repr. 1997; 1992), and L. Niland, ed. (2013); A. Alvarez also wrote extensively about her in his study of suicide, The Savage God (1971).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2016, The Columbia University Press.

Sylvia Plath: Selected full-text books and articles

Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study By Luke Ferretter Edinburgh University Press, 2010
CliffsNotes on Plath's The Bell Jar By Jeanne Inness Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999
Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems By Susan R. Van Dyne University of North Carolina Press, 1993
The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes By Keith Sagar Liverpool University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Sylvia Plath begins on p. 40
American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960 By Harold Bloom Chelsea House, vol.3, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Sylvia Plath: 1932-1963" begins on p. 1
The Monster in Plath's "Mirror." (Sylvia Plath) By Freedman, William Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 1993
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Classic Cult Fiction: A Companion to Popular Cult Literature By Thomas Reed Whissen Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath (1963)" begins on p. 30
Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War Politics By Robin Peel Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002
Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections By Neil Fraistat University of North Carolina Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: "The Two Ariels: The (Re)Making of the Sylvia Plath Canon" begins on p. 308
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